Friday, December 09, 2016

Greg Lake, RIP

I remember a day in the spring of 1970, sitting in someone's darkened bedroom in the early evening, hearing the words

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh,
But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying

I was too young to realise at the time that this was a song about the fear of a nuclear holocaust, but the dramatic singing and the majestic mellotron strings certainly moved me. 

We were listening to "Epitaph", the third track on the debut album by King Crimson. "In my opinion, it's Greg's best vocal performance - anywhere" said Michael Giles, the group's drummer (Sid Smith, p. 63). Greg Lake was the vocalist and bassist of the first incarnation of KC and as such entered the annals of rock fame.

After this line up splintered, Lake stayed with KC long enough to record some vocals for their second album, then left to join Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in the supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer, about which I wrote a little here.

Greg Lake died a few days ago from cancer. I learnt about this from an email sent to one of my mailing lists early this morning (along with the death of John Glenn, first American in space, later a senator). To my surprise, both deaths were reported in one of the Israeli papers this morning (I can understand reporting the death of Glenn, but Lake seems a little esoteric for an Israeli newspaper).

As someone commented, it's a bad year for musicians - Bowie, Cohen, Swarbrick, Martin and no doubt others - but in a sense, it's to be expected. The majority of musicians that I and my generation like/adore/admire were born in the 1940s, making them all in their sixties and seventies. That's a reasonable age for dying.

Strangely enough, I read the other day that the life expectancy of Israeli males is 81, second highest in the world (I didn't notice where it was the highest), a fact attributed to basic training in the Israeli army, which improves cardiac function.

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