Life has a way of evening things out.
Internationally acclaimed keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson passed a year ago. I loved him. He was my hero. When I was young and working for radio rentals delivering TV’s in my little van I used to drive to Fulham and go through the bins of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s recording studio looking for souvenirs. Later when I became famous I met Keith. I was speechless. They say never meet your heroes, however mine was great. He taught me how to be a friend as well as a fan. I travelled the world to see him play. We became palls. He was even best man at a couple of my weddings.
In 1977 I was about to go to Montreal to see them with a 60 piece orchestra in the Olympic stadium. I couldn’t go. I had been offered a TV series. I should have gone. I would never see Keith’s music with an orchestra again for Keith took his life.
No one will really know the reason he did this, although I think Keith believed he had lost his relevance. He had a problem with his right hand. It was getting worse, and suddenly and terrifyingly the world’s greatest rock keyboard player could not play the way he believed he had to. Keith had raised the bar of rock keyboard playing so high it even became out of his reach. He believed that he was unable to deliver what was expected of him, and depression set in.
I work with Veterans, some of them have the same problem, that of losing one’s relevance.
It is a huge smack in the face to realise that you must cease to be who you once were or who you chose to be, and realise that life moves on, and its time to turn the page.
When Simon Weston was injured, his life changed in an instant. He adapted, and now is an inspiration to us all. We must all accept our fate and rejoice in what we once had.
Let’s look at my favourite subject…me!
I have been right to the top of my profession, against all odds, some would say. But I’ve always believed that everyone has a shelf life. People say to me “why aint you on the Telly no more?” I tell them that I have done my shift. Some of my colleagues really struggle with not being the star they were. They feel hollow…like Ronin. (did you see the film?) They are without purpose and they watch what they see to be lesser mortals succeeding. It’s rotten, but that’s life, but believe me there is always something round the corner.
In 1976 I failed an audition for Opportunity Knocks, two months later I won New Faces.
After years at Thames television I was sacked. Two months later I was signed by BBC to do Big break and the biggest show of all the Generation Game.
I was arrested by operation yewtree on the way to the Big brother house.
1 year later I won Big brother.
When I was 19 I was going through Keith’s rubbish bins
Then on March the 11th last year I got a phone call from his Girlfriend Mari to tell me Keith was dead. She called me…the kid who was going through the bins.
I never got to Montreal. I never saw the great man’s works orchestrated. But as I said, life has a way of evening things up.
On the 28th of July I am producing a celebration of Keith’s life at the Birmingham symphony Hall. And yes… It will have a Sixty Piece Orchestra.
Keith Emerson a celebaration of life
Birmingham Symphony Hall
Rick Wakeman, Thiery Elise, Racheal Flowers, Marc Bonilla, Noddy’s Puncture
And the Keith Emerson Orchestra conducted by Terje Melkelson
Tickets 01217 803 333 http://bit.ly/2hjjvVz