Has 2016 been the worst year in history for worldwide music fans? The sad fact that Greg Lake is dead at age 69 certainly seems to prove as much. Revered as the voice of 1970s prog rock band King Crimson and as the L in ELP, Lake leaves behind an extensive musical catalog that includes such classic FM radio hits as “Lucky Man,” “Hall of the Crimson King,” and “Still You Turn Me On.”
Four years ago, Lake surprised more than a few fans when he told the Phoenix New Times that he rarely listens to music and when he does, he’s more likely to spin an Adele or Brad Paisley disk than anything associated with the progressive rock for which he himself was so well known. At the time of the interview, Lake had just finished writing his autobiography, Lucky Man, and was poised to embark on a solo tour. He told writer Jason P. Woodbury what it was like to pen his own story.
“It was a strange thing. I never really wanted to write an autobiography. But it was one of those things where I suppose — like all musicians — I end up telling stories all the time. One day, I was sitting at the dinner table and my manager said to me, ‘You really ought to write this stuff down, because if you don’t, it will get lost.’ So I sat down and I started it. When I started, I didn’t really have a clue, I didn’t have a thought it my head. But as I began to put the time frame together, it started to lock in. It’s rather like a jigsaw puzzle. When you start, it’s nothing, but as you start it begins to take shape — but not all at once. Not always at the beginning — but slowly you start filling in the gaps. Then you meet your friends, and they say, ‘Don’t you remember when you did this or did that?’ It starts to become fun. You uncover things you didn’t even know. Things you weren’t even aware of.”
On December 8, one day after Lake perished in the wake of a brave bout with cancer, his longtime manager, Stewart Young, expressed his own grief at the passing of his old friend.
Lake’s not entirely unexpected death comes a short nine months after his ELP bandmate, Keith Emerson, committed suicide. In response to that tragic event, Lake told Blabbermouth magazine that Emerson had been struggling with severe depression for years and that he was saddened, but not surprised when Emerson ended it all at age 71 with a shotgun blast to the head.
“I have to be honest and say his death didn’t come as a shock to me. The situation with Keith didn’t happen suddenly — it has been developed from as far back as The Works Volume 1 album. At that point I began to see things happening with Keith which didn’t look or feel right. It’s very difficult to describe what depression is. We all know what it looks like. People’s moods become very black. But it’s more complicated. It changes someone’s personality. He lived, in the end, this very lonely existence of someone who was deeply troubled. I saw someone who became increasingly confused, desperate and depressed.”
2016 has been a rotten year for music fans worldwide
The deaths of Greg Lake and Keith Emerson are horrendous to be sure, but comprise only a fraction of the ghastly news that devastated the world of music this year. From the demise of David Bowie to Don Henley, from Prince to Paul Kantner, from Leon Russel to Leonard Cohen, 2016 leaves us all with emptier ears and aching hearts.
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