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Born November 2, 1944 in Todmorden, Lancashire, England, Keith Emerson began playing piano by ear at age 4 by picking out melodies of show tunes he heard his father playing. He started taking lessons at age 8, but never really received much formal training beyond a few years of private lessons. By the age of 14, he was supporting himself musically by playing dance halls, bingo sessions, and accompaniment at his aunt's ballet studio. In his late teens, he moved to London and joined the band Gary Farr and the T-Bones, touring Germany, France, and Britain. His early influences were primarily jazz artists such as Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Smith, Oscar Peterson, and Jack McDuff. Classical composers also became influential in his music including J.S. Bach, Aaron Copland, Rachmaninoff, Bartok and Alberto Ginastera amongst others. In his twenties, he formed a band called The Nice, to back jazz/blues singer P.P. Arnold in England. They garnered their own solo spot, and began playing a unique fusion of jazz, blues, classical and rock. Emerson came to the forefront of the band musically and as a performer, and for the first time in rock music, the main focus was towards the keyboards, particularly the Hammond Organ. Emerson gained fame for his outrageous stage performances backed by virtuoso musical performances, and the band was signed by the manager of the Rolling Stones, Andrew Loog Oldham, on the strength of their club act. At age twenty, Emerson was commissioned to write "The Five Bridges Suite" in a live mixed orchestra/rock ensemble style with the Birmingham City Orchestra. In a short time they performed at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London, made consistent appearances on the British pop series "Old Grey Whistle Test" and "Ready, Steady, Go", and toured throughout Europe and the United States. Within the three years of the band's existence, they released five albums. Soon after hearing "Switched on Bach" by Walter Carlos, Emerson purchased and experimented with one of the first modular Moog synthesizers, and became the first artist to ever use a modular Moog synthesizer live on stage. Feeling somewhat limited by the playing abilities of the other members, in 1970 Emerson broke up The Nice and formed the legendary group, Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP). They achieved instant fame with their debut at the Isle of Wight Festival, announcing their arrival on the scene with cannon fire, and tearing into a furious rock trio's re-working of Mussorgsky's classic "Pictures at an Exhibition". Their first single, entitled "Lucky Man", ended with a startling new sound, the first featured lead synthesizer solo. This sound took the music world by storm, and the band was on its way. They released five platinum albums between 1970 and 1974, including a live recording of "Pictures at an Exhibition". The album many consider to be their finest work, the cryptically entitled "Brain Salad Surgery", produced another of Emerson's infamous classical adaptations, this time taking on the fourth movement, "Toccata", of Ginastera's first piano concerto as well as more original compositions. Ginastera himself was so impressed with the adaptation, that his endorsement appears on the album : "Keith Emerson has beautifully caught the mood of my piece". In 1974, ELP headlined the world famous California Jam, which was broadcast on ABC. He then undertook a new ELP album endeavor, returning in 1977 with the aptly named album called "Works". Emerson composed and performed his now famous "Piano Concerto No.1", with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Since its release, the Concerto has been played worldwide on classical radio, and performed by several major orchestras. Emerson's arrangement of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" also drew congratulatory comments from the composer himself, and has become a live-performance trademark, as well as achieving notoriety as a heroic theme for many sports broadcasts. Keith has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta conducting, L'Orchestre d'Opera de Paris, their own hand-picked orchestra for their '77 world tour. After touring with their orchestra, ELP returned to the road as a three piece, released two more albums, and finally disbanded in 1979. In 1980, Keith released his first solo album, a Caribbean island inspired work called "Honky" (so titled since he recorded it completely with Bahamian musicians).
Moving away from the limitations of a touring rock band, Emerson turned to orchestral motion picture soundtrack composition, and produced five film scores between 1979 and 1989, including Sylvester Stallone/Billy Dee Williams MCA film "Nighthawks", James Heard's Lorimar film "The Best Revenge", Italian horror master Dario Argento's "Inferno", "Murderock", and "The Church". Emerson also has scored a Japanese full length animated film "Harmagedon" for which he received a gold record for the main title theme.

In 1985, ELP regrouped with a new "P" in the band, that being drummer Cozy Powell, of Jeff Beck Group fame. With the Top 10 single and video "Touch and Go" in high rotation, they made their first appearance on MTV as guest VJ's, as well as on Friday Night Videos. During this period Keith made a solo appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, with Letterman keysman Paul Schaffer watching in awe. 1988 saw another re-incarnation of the classic ELP line-up, "Three-To the Power of Three" with Carl Palmer, and the addition of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Robert Berry. Keith and Robert continued to work together until 1990, when Keith returned to the studio to work on his solo ideas. These ideas appeared on the 1992 ELP release "Black Moon", which saw the original li ne-up of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer back together once more. For the first time in 13 years, they again toured the world. Keith returned to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall, which resulted in the live BBC broadcast, video, and album "Emerson, Lake & Palmer Live at the Royal Albert Hall".

In 1994 Keith composed 170 minutes of original music for Marvel Animation's "Iron Man" TV cartoon series. 1995 saw the release of "Changing States", a collection of solo works by Emerson, as well as "The Christmas Album", his third solo release. The Christmas Album" consists of a variety of original and familiar seasonal pieces arranged in Keith's inimitable style.

Keith has consistently won the Overall Best Keyboardist award in the annual Keyboard Magazine readers' poll since the magazine debuted in 1975, and holds a seat of honor on their advisory board.


Courtesy of The Official Keith Emerson Website
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