The price of fame

Keith Emerson

                            Keith Emerson

For every human life, whether you know it or not, your life affects others.

The famous, leaders, teachers, artists, good and bad people all change other people's lives.

So it was with Keith Emerson and me. I saw him as my musical mentor. Keith was the reason I became a composer. The music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer changed my life. And Keith’s music and ability affected me more than any other artist.

I was about 14 when I first heard ELPs seminal album, Brain Salad Surgery. At that moment, something in me burst into life. My whole world changed the first time I heard that album. I didn’t understand the title or the music. All I knew was that I had never heard anything like it before, and I wanted to create something as amazing as this album one day. It made so much other music seem redundant to me at the time.

I’m still not sure what it takes to create something as unique as the sounds that ELP made, but at least now I know how to make something similar, thanks to Keith Emerson and ELP.

But is the price of fame worth your life? I’m not sure. I can’t imagine a world without the music of Keith Emerson, or without the books of Ernest Hemingway, or without the art of Mark Rothko, but all three killed themselves, and their art and the price of fame is what killed them.

After 15 years of public performance with the poetry group DiVerse, to thousands of people, I have an understanding of what fame can do to people. Along with the struggle to create art and have it accepted, these things can alter your perception of the world and yourself.

After reading about how, and why I assume Keith Emerson killed himself, I understand why he did it. But it’s also infuriating that he did. I assume that Keith thought with his degenerative nerve disorder in his right hand, which limited his ability to play the piano, his age and the amazing career he had all played a part in his choice to kill himself.

As a pianist, I constantly think about what injuring my hands would do to my ability. Not being able to play the piano and create music the way I have for most of my life, would change everything. Would I kill myself though? I hope not. But no one can ever know what is possible until put into that situation.

I understand that there is more to life than music and creativity, some people don’t. Maybe these are the great artists of the world. And does the suicide of a great artist change the public perception of that person? I think it does with me, to a point.

I don’t know why artists who are planning on killed themselves can’t see that they have so much more they can offer the world, outside their main art form. But it’s obvious, that for some, they can’t imagine that. This may sound incredibly selfish, but imagine learning music from Emerson, writing from Hemingway, art from Rothko or poetry from Sylvia Plath.

The number of male artists who take their lives is a sad statement about males in general, and something that needs a lot more discussion.

I am so glad that Keith Emerson’s music exists. It gives me life. But with great art, comes great cost. I hope history proves that with Keith taking his life, takes nothing away from his music.

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