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This Date in Music – Nov 10, 1947 – Happy Birthday, Greg Lake!

On this day in 1947 English musician, songwriter, producer and founding member of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer Gregory Stuart “Greg” Lake was born. Greg Lake and I go back a long way Greg is 4 years my senior so,  while I was a 17-year-old high school student, Greg was invited by  his  high school friend guitarist Robert Fripp, to join King Crimson. Fripp asked Lake a fellow guitarist asked Lake to switch to bass and to take on the role of lead singer. Lake agreed and as they say the rest is history!! So my first introduction to Lake’s music was from King Crimson’s debut album In the Court of the Crimson King. From Wikipedia:

The first incarnation of King Crimson was formed in London on 30 November 1968 and first rehearsed on 13 January 1969.[7][16] The band name was coined by lyricist Peter Sinfieldas a synonym for Beelzebub, prince of demons. According to Fripp, Beelzebub would be an anglicised form of the Arabic phrase “B’il Sabab”, meaning “the man with an aim” – although it literally means “with a cause”.[17] Historically and etymologically, a “crimson king” was any monarch during whose reign there was civil unrest and copious bloodshed; the album debuted at the height of world-wide opposition to the military involvement of the United States in Southeast Asia. At this point, Ian McDonald was King Crimson’s main composer, albeit with significant contributions from Lake and Fripp, while Sinfield not only wrote all the lyrics but designed and operated the band’s revolutionary stage lighting, and was therefore credited with “sounds and visions”. McDonald suggested the new band purchase a Mellotron (the first example of the band’s persistent involvement with music technology) and they began using it to create an orchestral rock sound, inspired by The Moody Blues

  Lake had some involvement in writing the lyrics for King Crimson’s debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, although Peter Sinfield was the primary lyricist. Aside from being the lead singer and bass player, Lake also ended up producing the album after their contracted producer, Tony Clarke, walked away from the project. Read More

After leaving King Crimson Lake eventually team with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer to form the group Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Here’s some information on the founding of that progressive rock group…..

King Crimson played a couple of venues with The Nice, during which Lake struck up a friendship with The Nice’s precocious keyboardist Keith Emerson. Lake and Emerson eventually teamed up and brought in the drummer from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster, Carl Palmer—forming the progressive rock ‘supergroup’ Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP). Lake contributed acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, lyrics, vocals and production work to the band. The trio did not make use of external producers for any of their albums in the 1970s, nor did they employ session players for studio work or live performances. During concerts, Lake would play acoustic guitar, electric guitar or bass as required. Beginning with the 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery, Lake did collaborate with Peter Sinfield to write lyrics.

I will have to admit that one of the only concerts that I walked out on was an Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert at the Philadelphia Spectrum. My wife (at the point my girlfriend, not that she isn’t my girlfriend now) and I had gone to the concert primarily to see Souther, Hillman and Furay (thinking about it now it wad a strange pairing of acts)  Anyway when we arrived there was an announcement that because of  the illness of a band member SHF would not be playing! We decided to stay anyway. Our seats were at the opposite end of the Spectrum from the stage and as high as one could go in the Spectrum! It didn’t take long though for the music to overpower us! I’m not sure but Kathy may have had a headache anyway we probably left after the first or second song!  I often wonder what the results of staying for the full concert would have been and would I now be more hard of hearing than I am now as a result!!

Anyway after the first couple of albums by both King Crimson and ELP I lost track of both of the band’s careers. Here’s what Wikipedia says about Lake’s legacy……

Although Lake contriavbuted to many of ELP’s songs, he was particularly noticeable for his acoustic guitar-oriented and soulful tunes such as “Lucky Man” (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), “The Sage” (Pictures at an Exhibition), “From the Beginning” (Trilogy), “Still… You Turn Me On” (Brain Salad Surgery) and “C’est la Vie” (Works Volume I). Lake became popularly known for his UK Christmas number two single, “I Believe in Father Christmas” in 1975, which was later included on the ELP album Works Volume II. Read more

When I started researching this post I went to Greg’s website where I saw that he  released an album back in February of this year titled Songs of a Lifetime which was the result of Greg’s idea to present the songs that have made up the “Soundtrack of his Life” in an intimate setting where he could play the songs and tell the stories behind them. I listened to a little of the album this morning and it is definitely being downloaded for further listening, I found a video of Greg performing one of my favorite ELP songs “From the Beginning” Again from Wikipedia:

From the Beginning is a song written by Greg Lake and performed by the progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It was released on their 1972 album Trilogy. It is driven by an acoustic guitar line with layers of electric guitar (both rhythm and lead), electric bass guitar, and sung by Lake, with some backing on drums (played by Carl Palmer with tympani mallets and without cymbals), and with a distinctive closing synthesizer solo from Keith Emerson, accompanied by overdubbed random synthesizer-generated effects. It hit #39 in the US and was their highest charting single. Read More

So Happy 67th Birthday Greg Lake – Thanks for all the great music over the last 40 plus years that have added greatly to the “soundtrack of my life”!!