BIOGRAPHY OF GREG LAKE
(10 November 1947 – 7 December 2016)
Vocalist, musician and producer, Greg Lake is one of the most prominent and popular musicians in the world and has often been described as having the voice of a generation.
He first won worldwide acclaim as lead vocalist, bass guitarist and producer when together with Robert Fripp he formed King Crimson. Their first album, In Court of the Crimson King, co-produced by Greg, featured the iconic song "21st Century Schizoid Man." King Crimson pioneered progressive rock and paved the way for famous bands that followed, including Yes and Genesis all the way through to bands such as The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and countless others.
Fripp and Lake met when they shared the same Dorset guitar teacher who taught an expansive range of music including classical pieces by Paganini and post war classics. Lake also listened to early American rock and roll and was inspired by everything he heard, from Elvis to classical.
Greg says "There is a common thread throughout all the music. The forms may be different, but each one to some degree draws upon inspiration from the past. I am as proud to have been as influenced by people like Elvis and Little Richard as I am by composers like Copeland and Prokofiev and I'm honoured when other musicians regard me as one of their inspirations."
Greg met fellow legend Keith Emerson during a North American tour where Emerson's band, The Nice shared the bill with King Crimson. The two shared common bonds: diverse musical influences and a desire to reinterpret classical works while creating new classics in a new musical genre. They also shared a perfectionist perspective which made them challenge each other and challenge the success and recognition they had previously achieved.
After returning to England Greg and Keith were introduced to Atomic Rooster drummer Carl Palmer, by Robert Stigwood, and very soon thereafter they formed Emerson Lake and Palmer.
The three created a unique live theatrical performance which stretched the imagination and enthralled audiences. One of their very first exceptional performances together was at the historic Isle of Wight Festival. That special concert propelled them on their path to become one of the world's first "super groups."
The 1971 debut album, Emerson Lake and Palmer went platinum. It was produced by Lake and featured a song Greg had written while still in school: "Lucky Man." "Lucky Man," performed on acoustic guitar, would become an iconic song for the band and a popular classic on radio. The song has become synonymous with Greg Lake and the title was chosen as the title for Greg Lake’s 2012 autobiography.
"I am both a bass guitarist and guitarist," Greg explains. "A lot of the really good bass players also play guitar. McCartney and Sting for example both play guitar and I certainly grew up on it. But, because King Crimson didn't need two guitarists, I took over playing the bass."
In taking on the instrument, he also pioneered a new way of playing it. "I derived a great deal of enjoyment playing bass partly - I think - because I played it in a different way from most people at the time. The style I developed was a more percussive and more sustained approach, which almost certainly came from all my years on guitar. I was frustrated by the normal dull sound of bass guitars at the time and was searching for a more expressive sound. I discovered the key was to use the wire wound bass strings, which have far more sustain, rather like the low end of a Steinway Grand Piano. I think I was the first bass player to really use them in this way."
However, it was the acoustic guitar that provided the setting for the ballads ELP and Lake became famous for. Lake wrote and sang: "C'est La Vie," "From the Beginning," "Still...You Turn Me On," "Watching Over You," and "Lucky Man." One of the most famous Christmas songs ever was penned by Greg Lake. "I Believe in Father Christmas” has been covered by artists ranging from classical to rock, among them Irish rockers U2, actress and singer Sarah Brightman, and Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess. Greg has performed it with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson frequently as a fundraiser. Greg Lake composed ballads, he says, so he could play the guitar with ELP and still contribute the electric bass that paired so well with Emerson's fiery keyboards and Palmer's explosive drums.
"I love acoustic guitars. They're delicate and light and yet at the same time are unbelievably powerful. They are really a strange instrument from that point of view, but there is something very special about them," he explains. "You just have to look at some of the truly great songs written on acoustic guitar - "Scarborough Fair," "Forever Young," "Yesterday" - truly iconic songs that all came from a small piece of wood with thin steel strings tied to each end."
The acoustics worked perfectly with Lake's "golden" voice, which Record Collector magazine calls "extraordinary, altering comfortably between angelic and magisterial."
Lake's remarkable voice also powered ELP's more electric pieces such as Karn Evil #9, one of the world's most beloved songs. The opening line "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends..." is an international favourite, globally used as a television theme.
To date Emerson Lake and Palmer has sold over 48 million records. Lake produced Tarkus, Pictures at an Exhibition, Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery, Works Vol. 1 and 2, and two different live albums. All went platinum and featured a series of hit singles , most written and all sung by Greg, who credits their success to his constant search for perfection and his heart.
"The greatest music is made for love, not for money. The early ELP albums were pioneering because there is no standing still; time is always moving forward."
It wasn't just the albums, it was the performances. The band filled arenas and stadiums in record breaking numbers. They toured the world with an enormous assembly of technicians, musicians and artists to realize their spellbinding shows.
The instrumental reworking of Aaron Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man became the third bestselling instrumental track ever and still holds that honour. It became a showcase in live concerts for the band's theatrics as well as technical and creative abilities.
Greg Lake has formed partnerships on stage, and off, in performances, writing, recording, and productions with musicians whose brilliance matches his own. Solo tours and recordings have been extremely successful as he continues to recreate hits, add to his vast repertoire and raise the bar for others in the industry.
His collaborations are many and impressive: Sheila E; Ringo Starr (joining Ringo Starr's All-Star Band to great acclaim and with great enjoyment); Led Zepplin's Robert Plant; The Who's Roger Daltrey (which led to a guest recording on a hit Who single); Procol Harum's Gary Booker, and Gary Moore. Greg has joined his friend Ian Anderson onstage with Jethro Tull and performed with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Most recently Greg worked with arranger, composer and keyboard artist David Arch (whose vast credentials include scoring and playing now-classic movies including three Harry Potter films, Star Wars, Bridget Jones' Diary and Notting Hill).
Greg also completed a successful and critically acclaimed tour in 2010. That tour was the foundation for the unique and inventive format which relies on audience participation. It preceded the reunion performance of Emerson Lake and Palmer as the headliners of the first and much celebrated and awarded High Voltage Festival.
2012 sees a reimagining and expansion of his intimate, interactive musical event format with his autobiographical tour, Songs of a Lifetime, full of drama, pathos, and humour. That show was inspired by the writing of Greg Lake’s greatly anticipated autobiography, Lucky Man. Available in both audio (read by the author) and hard cover formats, the book is not a recording of the show; it is completely different.
Greg Lake is a formidable producer in his own right. He was one of the driving forces behind the now legendary Manticore Records, which he says, was built "with the noble ideal of helping other progressive artists, music we thought worth supporting, that weren't getting help from the majors."
Lake's inventive production shaped the best selling ELP albums and his solo work. As he continues to write and perform, he looks forward to new recordings and new tours.
Songs of a Lifetime continues his musical journey, sharing musical memories and adding new ones for an audience composed not simply of fans of Greg Lake or of rock and roll, but all music lovers. The tour was hailed as an “artistic triumph” during its first run in North America and promises more surprises as it continues in the UK and in Europe. Additional North American dates are planned for 2013 and Greg promises that the show will continue its evolutionary and revolutionary format.
"From the Beginning," Greg Lake has led the way with extraordinary groundbreaking writing, performing and collaborations. The future holds more surprises.