Greg Lake, a founding member of both King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, died Wednesday at the age of 69. The singer and bassist lost “a long and stubborn battle with cancer,” according to a Facebook post by his manager, Stewart Young.
Lake was one of the founding fathers of prog rock. After receiving his first guitar at age 12, he started taking lessons from a local instructor named Don Strike. Robert Fripp was another of his students, and Lake and Fripp formed a strong friendship. In 1969, the pair would form King Crimson and go on to release their landmark debut LP, In the Court of the Crimson King, a year later.
After falling out with the band in the wake of their second album, In the Wake of Poseidon, Lake received an offer to join a new band with Keith Emerson. Emerson was then a member of The Nice and had met Lake while opening for King Crimson. They recruited Atomic Rooster drummer Carl Palmer and formed ELP in 1970, the first progressive rock supergroup. Lake produced many of ELP’s albums, including their self-titled debut, Tarkus (which opens with a 20-minute, seven-part suite giant armadillo tank creature), Trilogy, and Brain Salad Surgery.
ELP would go on to sell over 48 million records and have a major impact on music throughout the ’70s. Their fusion of winding rock and funk in addition to their elaborate stage shows made them one of the most influential acts of the era. Lake had a brief solo career in the 80s, and released his latest solo effort, Ride the Tiger, in 2015
“We wanted to try and move things forward and do something new and break boundaries. It was important for us to be original,” Lake told Rolling Stone in 2013. “Certainly the early albums … Those records were really great and innovative. There were members of the press that didn’t love us, but the public loved us.”
Lake’s death comes just nine months after Emerson committed suicide at the age of 71.
“It is with great sadness that I must now say goodbye to my friend and fellow bandmate, Greg Lake,” Palmer wrote in a statement. “Greg’s soaring voice and skill as a musician will be remembered by all who knew his music and recordings he made with ELP and King Crimson. I have fond memories of those great years we had in the 1970s and many memorable shows we performed together. Having lost Keith this year as well has made this particularly hard for all of us. As Greg sang at the end of Pictures at an Exhibition, ‘death is life.’ His music can now live forever in the hearts of all who loved him.”