Skip to Content

Keith Emerson – the prog rock keyboardist who co-founded the legendary trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer – has passed away at the age of 71.

Keith Emerson Photo
Photo via WENN

No cause of death has been given, but Emerson’s death was described as "sudden."

Sources say the musician had plans to begin touring Japan next week. His girlfriend discovered his body this afternoon at his home in Santa Monica.

A pioneering figure in the 1970s rock scene, Emerson was the first musician to tour with a Moog synthesizer, an unwieldy, futuristic-sounding instrument that had previously only been used in studio sessions by bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Emerson was revered by musicians for his technical mastery, and beloved by audiences for his onstage antics, such as using knives to wedge down keys on his synthesizer, or playing two keyboards at once.

Along with Rick Wright or Pink Floyd and Tony Banks of Genesis, Emerson was one of the instrumentalists who did for organs and synthesizers what Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton had already for done for guitars.

Social media tributes to Emerson have been pouring in from all over the globe, and not surprisingly, many of them come from musicians who credit him for making keyboards cool and inspiring them to take piano lessons.