What A Lucky Man He Was

24 Mar

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What A Lucky Man He Was

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89g1P_J40JA Lucky Man

By: Bob Gersztyn

All photography copyright Bob Gersztyn

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Back in 1971 my girlfriend Kathy and I used to go to the East Town theater on the East side of Detroit every weekend, at least on one night. From 1969 to 1971 we saw many of the artists that performed there. The roster included Alice Cooper, B. B. King, Albert King, Savoy Brown, Derek and the Dominoes, Spirit, Traffic, Canned Heat, Mott The Hoople, Rod Stewart and the Faces, Grand Funk Railroad, The Steve Miller Band and Emerson, Lake and Palmer to name some.

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I remember the Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert with a clarity that allows me to zoom in on 45 year old details. The deepest lingering memory is of Keith Emerson playing keyboards as if it were a portable instrument like an accordion, by pulling the instrument down on top of himself as he played it. In other words, his theatrics impressed me as much as his playing. Sure, the thing that initially drew me to see the group perform was their music. They were pioneers of progressive rock, along with Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and even Jethro Tull.

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By 1996 I had been married to Kathy forΒ 25 years and took one of our 7Β children to see Jethro Tull with Emerson, Lake and Palmer opening. I wasΒ moonlighting as a freelanceΒ music journalistΒ covering the concert for a Deadhead publication named Duprees Diamond News so I had good seats, along with a photo pass and a backstage pass for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. After their performance I went to the backstage area where I was admitted. My 16 year old son Bill didn’t want to come back stage with me so he waited in his seat.

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When I arrived in the room that everyone was gathered in I noticed that there was a cooler full of beer and soda, so I asked the band’s road manager, who seemed to be in charge if the beverages were for everyone. He told me no, but then he added, “they’re already pissed off at me,” and handed me a beer from the cooler. I popped it open an began to drink it as I milled around the room, which contained about 15 people besides Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

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Carl Palmer just finished talking with someone and was standing by himself so I walked up to him and told him who I was covering the concert for and we talked about different drummers, when I mentioned Ed Cassidy from Spirit. He said that he saw Spirit in London back in 1970 when they were at their peak. Greg Lake was signing someone’s vinyl record albums and as he finished I extended my hand to shake his. Instead of taking my hand he placed the marking pen that he signed the autographs with and walked away. I guess he was mad that I was drank a beer. So I walked over to Keith Emerson who was by himself at the moment and asked him if he was still using the same organ that he did when I saw him in 1971 and he said that he was.

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On Thursday March 10, 2016 Keith Emerson committed suicide, which shocked me as all suicides do. I can understand the lure of suicide in the depths of depression over losing the ability to participate in the most important facet of his life, that of playing keyboards. However, it still saddens me every time that I learn of another victim who ended their life by their own hand rather than surrendering to the natural process as Timothy Leary did.

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