Rock star Keith Emerson killed himself because he feared he was no longer good enough as a musician, his girlfriend exclusively told The Mail on Sunday last night.
The 71-year-old founder and keyboard player of Emerson, Lake and Palmer was 'tormented with worry' about upcoming concerts in Japan because nerve damage to a hand had affected his playing, said Mari Kawaguchi.
She found Emerson's body when she returned to the apartment the couple shared in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, early on Friday morning.
As a music teacher, this hits me in the gut so hard I nearly can't stand it. First: lord knows I've been there. You almost never play as well as you think you could have, and it's very easy to get into a mindset where that doubt eats you up and spits you out. Some performers find that place where they are so supremely confident that they revel in their imperfections. Most of us, I believe, do not.He had shot himself with a gun he kept for protection.
Next: it was well know for some time that Emerson had issues with nerve damage (I had heard that it was Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but who knows). You have to understand this guy was a technical monster at his instrument. There was a part of his career where he was considered the Jimi Hendrix of the organ.
But if you got past that, he was capable of amazing feats:
I can't tell you how many hours I played that ostinato in my left hand while trying to improvise in my right when I was in my mid-teens. Was it the most tasteful playing? I hadn't met Bill Evans or Thelonious Monk yet (two more technical geniuses -- only pianists get that, maybe), so these days, I'd say no. I'll confess I haven't pulled out an ELP album in some time.
But this music meant the world to me back in the day, and I know I'm not alone. It obviously shattered Emerson to think he wasn't going to be capable of playing this way anymore.
Music should be a joy, but like so many things in life, it can bring pain to those who love it the most. I only hope that Keith Emerson is finally at peace, and I am glad that his music is here for those of us who still cherish it.