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Interview with Keith Emerson's Girlfriend

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Category: Progressive Music Lounges
Forum Name: Interviews
Forum Description: Original interviews with Prog artists (which are exclusive to Prog Archives)
Printed Date: May 21 2022 at 23:38
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Topic: Interview with Keith Emerson's Girlfriend
Posted By: The.Crimson.King
Subject: Interview with Keith Emerson's Girlfriend
Date Posted: March 14 2016 at 14:34
Just saw this article this morning on Ultimate Guitar where Keith's girlfriend sheds some light on his state of mind before the shooting.  Very sad stuff Broken Heart" rel="nofollow -

In a new interview, Keith Emerson's girlfriend has revealed that the musician was"tormented" with worries about the quality of his live performances before he died.

Speaking with the Daily Mail (via" rel="nofollow - Blabbermouth ), Mari Kawaguchisaid that nerve damaged to his right hand affected his playing:

"His right hand and arm had given him problems for years. He had an operation a few years ago to take out a bad muscle but the pain and nerve issues in his right hand were getting worse.

"He had concerts coming up in Japan and even though they hired a back-up keyboard player to support him, Keith was worried."

She also said that the musician reacted negatively to online criticism of recent performances and was planning to retire after a series of scheduled concerts in Japan:

"He read all the criticism online and was a sensitive soul. Last year he played concerts and people posted mean comments such as, 'I wish he would stop playing.'

"He was tormented with worry that he wouldn't be good enough. He was planning to retire after Japan.

"He didn't want to let down his fans. He was a perfectionist and the thought he wouldn't play perfectly made him depressed, nervous and anxious."

Kawaguchi found Emerson's dead body at around 1.30 a.m. Friday after returning to their shared Santa Monica apparent. He had an apparently self-inflicted" rel="nofollow - gunshot wound to the head .

-------------" rel="nofollow - Mutiny in Jonestown : Progressive Rock Since 1987

Posted By: JD
Date Posted: March 14 2016 at 14:53
Absolutely heartbreaking. I had sent the great man a letter last year through John Arnold of the ELP Digest. I had always hoped to get a response at some point when he wasn't too busy. Sadly it was not to be. I feel comfortable sharing it with the community here at this time of reflection.

Dear Mr Emerson Keith

 Wow, where to start? Using the formal or familiar, how does one address who they consider to be their musical Idol? I hope I chose well.

 I suppose before I start my fan’dish ramblings I should cut right to the chase and afford you option of not needing to read on.


As a show of immense gratitude for the lifetime of music you have provided I would like to return the favour by providing you with a small sampling of music that I have the good fortune of being involved in. If you’d like to accept this gift (2 CD’s) please provide a mailing address that will ensure they arrive unimpeded and I will forward them immediately.

 And with that you are free to read on or not at your own discretion.


My earliest recollection of hearing your music came at the tender age of 12 in my hometown of London Ontario, Canada. I am one of those people who fall asleep much better when listening to music and one evening, as I listened to a distant Buffalo FM station on a small bedside radio, I heard what I can only describe as the most compelling sounds I had ever heard emanating from the tiny speakers. Thankfully this was a time when DJ’s would recap the name of the songs they had played even if it was list of eight or ten songs. This magnificent work, I learned, was called ‘Knife Edge’. And so my journey into progressive music and the works of Emerson Lake and Palmer began.

 Music Training

My first exposure to music performance was in the form of 10 free lessons on the accordion from a door to door ‘salesman’ circa 1966, I was 8 at the time. It was an intimidating instrument of monstrous proportions but I’d learned ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ by the end of the free lessons. When asked by my folks if I wished to continue I sheepishly said not really. The thought of such a massive instrument strapped to my chest was more than my wee mind could process. At 11 I took trumpet lessons for two years and while I handled the embouchure aspects of the instrument with ease, clearing the water key was kind of disgusting for a kid and the selection of tunes I had to play left me uninterested. It was about this time that I turned to what my gift of music was…listening.

 Musical Opportunity

In grade eleven, at the tender age of 16, I attended a school dance. As I entered the hallway close to where the band was playing my ears caught the sound of the music. I stopped dead in my tracks. Could it be, was it true? No way. It was unheard of. I know that song! It’s Hoedown! “That’s an ELP tune!” I said to my buddy. I raced down the flight of stairs to the cafeteria where the band was playing. Upon entering the room I was greeted by a wall of keyboards. I stood transfixed as the keyboardist performed his musical gymnastics. At the end of the song, as I clapped frantically, I walked around to the other side of the keyboards to see the rest of the band. Hmmm, ok there’s the drummer, where’s the rest of the band? I walked back around to the keyboards again looking for what I must have missed. Ok, keyboardist, got it. Back to the other side. Ok, drummer. What the hell?? Two guys? It can’t be. I soon learned the name of the band was BUSKER. A word I’m sure you’re familiar with. And they certainly lived up to the name. Steve played keys, guitar, sang and played a full Hammond bass pedal set-up. Randy played drums, percussion, harmonica and sang. Between them they sounded like a 4 piece band without the use of tapes or loops. Everything played live. I struck up a conversation with them and was soon following them to any club that they played within my ability to attend. About a year later at one of their gigs the drummer mentioned that they were doing an east coast tour and wondered if I’d like to go with them as a roadie and maybe even run their lights. Eventually they purchased a full PA system and offered me a job as sound engineer. I spent 6 years full time running the FOH board and being their full road crew. During that time Steve purchased a 16 track 1” tape Tascam recorder and we built a studio in his double garage. Eventually, as is many times the case, family and the road took its toll and the band went its separate ways.


I’ve had the great fortune to see ELP live at least 5 times. My first chance to see the band was at Cobo Hall in Detroit with the Orchestra. I rented a 400mm lens for my camera and captured a few excellent shots. Over the years I made every effort to see ELP, and subsequently, ELPowell when they came anywhere near my area. I have met Carl Palmer twice, once during the first ASIA tour where I was able to gain access to the venue during sound check. I sat and talked with him for about 15 minutes and had all members sign my album cover sleeve.  I also met him years later at a drum clinic in Toronto. Unfortunately I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting either you or Greg Lake in person. Like many fans I have collected everything ELP, including the signed BSS cover lithograph. In fact, my folks knew how much I loved ELP and my mom actually made me a wall hanging of the ELP Pirates swords for Christmas one year. It’s a unique one of a kind keepsake that I cherish to this day.

 My Gift (assuming you’ve read this far)

As stated at the beginning of this note I’d like to send you a gift of music.  Back in 2006, after doing sound engineering for a few of Steve’s solo albums, he told me he didn’t have a project in the queue. I suggested he do a proper version of a piece he had written back in 1973-74 but that had only existed as a demo recording on four track 1/4" tape, and so ‘Northern Fantasies’ became a reality. It’s a 20 track, 40 minute suite based on Steve’s travels across Canada. The tunes are progressive, jazzy, folky and comedic. Much like Canada itself, it’s a melting pot of styles. I did the mixing, editing mastering and designed the cover for it. I’d also like to give you his classical piano album called ‘Reflections of a Mystic Land’ which I performed the same functions on as I did on ‘Northern Fantasies’.


I continue to keep myself involved in music to the best of my ability. Contributing lyrics for some of Steve’s music, performing the role of Sound and Stage Manager for the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival and performing my most important function…listening! Whether it’s classic ELP, Keith Emerson solo/soundtrack or The Keith Emerson Band my ears are tuned to what they know best, excellence in music. And if I may say so, you have and continue to provide a degree of excellence that in my humble opinion is still unmatched today.

 So thank you Keith, thank you for providing the soundtrack to my life, for continuing to provide music of a masterful calibre and for continuing to show the world that you really are the best god damn keyboardist in the world.

 With much appreciation and may many thanks


Thank you for supporting independently produced music

Posted By: NutterAlert
Date Posted: March 14 2016 at 15:31
depression is a horrible illness, this is all so upsetting and happens all too often.
He left the world in the pits of despair and now he is rightly being eulogised. If only he knew what people really thought of him and what he had achieved. So so sad.
I will attend Carl's tribute to Keith in June if I can to pay my final respects.

Proud to be an un-banned member since 2005

Posted By: silverpot
Date Posted: March 14 2016 at 17:58
I really feel for his girlfriend Mari. Poor woman, what a chock and horror having to be the one to find him.

Posted By: KingCrInuYasha
Date Posted: March 14 2016 at 22:26
I really wish Keith had reached out for help/received the help he needed. He wouldn't have been able to play as well anymore, but he could have done something to channel his remaining abilities. If not for his fans happiness, then at least for his.  I hope I'm not sounding callous about this.

He looks at this world and wants it all... so he strikes, like Thunderball!

Posted By: jazzcomputer
Date Posted: March 15 2016 at 04:49
Originally posted by The.Crimson.King The.Crimson.King wrote:

Just saw this article this morning on Ultimate Guitar where Keith's girlfriend sheds some light on his state of mind before the shooting.  Very sad stuff Broken Heart

Speaking with the Daily Mail (via Blabbermouth" rel="nofollow - ), Mari Kawaguchisaid that nerve damaged to his right hand affected his playing:

It's maybe not my business, but anyways I'd just like to copy / paste a message from Mari Kawagushi on Facebook this morning :

« I was going to ignore this, but I cannot bare it anymore. There is an interview of me going around in the newspapers everywhere. Please know that there are many gross inaccuracies in this article in the manner that my words are twisted around, altered, taken out of context, or plain "I didn't say it". I've been told, "That's British tabloid for ya!" I angers me that I fell for it in my most vulnerable moment. Live and learn. »



Ambient Jazz Music :" rel="nofollow -

Posted By: Warthur
Date Posted: March 15 2016 at 07:58
Yeah, it sounds like the Mail trying to spin "Keith was concerned about the quality of his live performances based on online reviews" as "Keith was depressed/driven to suicide by internet fans".

The thing people always forget about depression - partly because the media constantly get this point wrong - is that depression does not need a reason. If your brain chemistry decides you are going to be depressed, then you are going to be depressed; taking exterior things much harder than you would otherwise have is a symptom, not a cause.

Posted By: The.Crimson.King
Date Posted: March 15 2016 at 10:59
Just read Mari's FB response.  It wouldn't surprise me a bit if her original statements were taken out of context and "rearranged" to make a sensational point for the writer that she never intended...or even worse, to simplify the complex circumstances which surrounded Keith's passing into a neat & tidy "rock star kills himself due to internet critics" soundbite.  Seems the media is completely out of control (as usual) and will do anything to self promote.  We'll never know exactly what she did tell them about Keith's state of mind, but all we do know as fact is that Keith took his own life, though for reasons we may never know.  

The insidious thing about depression is that it keeps you in your own head, isolated, and trying to think your way out, when the simplest act of reaching out to a friend or loved one for help could be all that's needed to begin reversing that downward spiral.  What's sad is that Keith had Mari, family, and dozens of musicians he's played with over his career, not to mention adoring fans the world over, who would have happily offered whatever support they could...

-------------" rel="nofollow - Mutiny in Jonestown : Progressive Rock Since 1987

Posted By: JD
Date Posted: March 15 2016 at 14:16
All this "Why didn't he" speculation is moot. Depression doesn't give the sufferer the option or chance to make these decisions. It can manifest itself in a heart beat with the brain allowing only one action. Relief from the pain, and in a fragile state of mind the outcome is usually not rational to the outside world.

Learn about depression. It can attack anyone at any time for any number of reasons.

Personally, I'd like to see a movement by the music community (and not just prog) to get behind or start a campaign to raise funds and awareness for this all too common mental illness.

Thank you for supporting independently produced music

Posted By: JD
Date Posted: March 16 2016 at 10:36
Just saw this update.

A coroner's official says the death of keyboardist Keith Emerson, co-founder of the seminal progressive rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer, has been ruled a suicide.

Los Angeles coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said Tuesday the determination was made after an autopsy showed Emerson shot himself in the head. He says there were also signs the 71-year-old man had a heart condition.

Emerson's body was found early Friday by his longtime partner.

Authorities suspected Emerson shot himself but the determination did not become official until after the autopsy.

Thank you for supporting independently produced music

Posted By: The.Crimson.King
Date Posted: March 16 2016 at 11:06
Just saw Greg Lake's statement on Ultimate Guitar.  Unlike Mari, hopefully he was quoted accurately.  Full link here:" rel="nofollow -

Late Keith Emerson's ELP bandmate, Mr. Greg Lake, said the keyboardist's suicide didn't come as a major shock to him, explaining how the tragedy began brewing many years ago.

Lake tells" rel="nofollow - Express : "I have to be honest and say" rel="nofollow - his death didn't come as a shock to me.

"The situation with Keith didn't happen suddenly - it has been developed from as far back as[1977's] 'The Works Vol. 1' album. At that point I began to see things happening with Keith which didn't look or feel right."

He added: "It's very difficult to describe what depression is. We all know what it looks like. People's moods become very black. But it's more complicated. It changes someone's personality.

"He lived, in the end, this very lonely existence of someone who was deeply troubled. I saw someone who became increasingly confused, desperate and depressed."

Asked to comment on Emerson's girlfriend's statement about how the musician was "tormented with worry" as a degenerative disease affected his playing ability, Lake noted:

"I'm sure that was a component - but a lot of people are given bad news like that, and you don't take your life because of it. If anyone does have feelings of being so desperate that they think it's better off not to wake up tomorrow, please talk to somebody. The doctor, your friend, anybody.

"Talk to them and tell them what state you're in. If Keith had taken that path, he might still be here today."

-------------" rel="nofollow - Mutiny in Jonestown : Progressive Rock Since 1987

Posted By: JD
Date Posted: March 16 2016 at 12:01
God I don't want to turn this into a battle, but Greg's comments seem a little dismissive to me.

If Keith had taken that path, he might still be here today."

Like it was Keith responsibility to take action. WRONG.


I saw someone who became increasingly confused, desperate and depressed."

And did what exactly? Did he reach out, did he work with Keith's family or management team to start a dialogue, get him the help and support he needed?

"but a lot of people are given bad news like that, and you don't take your life because of it"

Again, misinformed or ignorant of the disease.
I just wish people would open there eyes and minds to what depression is really about.

'nough said.

Thank you for supporting independently produced music

Posted By: KingCrInuYasha
Date Posted: March 16 2016 at 12:07
^ I hate to be prying, but have you personally known someone who was in a similar position that Keith was in?

Not that I'm throwing your argument under the bus, I get where you're saying and agree.

He looks at this world and wants it all... so he strikes, like Thunderball!

Posted By: JD
Date Posted: March 16 2016 at 12:52
Depression, yes.

Keith's position, not really I guess. His was a unique situation to him. Depression is the ailment, circumstances are the contributing factors.

Thank you for supporting independently produced music

Posted By: KingCrInuYasha
Date Posted: March 16 2016 at 13:42
Originally posted by JD JD wrote:

Depression, yes.


Okay, that's all I needed. 

I can understand Greg saying people with depression should seek help, but, as you said, it can reach a point where one can't reach out for help, for one reason or another. I think the dismissiveness on Greg's part was because Keith was affected with depression for so long that Greg probably thought that it was a phase whenever Keith's condition lessened.

He looks at this world and wants it all... so he strikes, like Thunderball!

Posted By: JD
Date Posted: March 16 2016 at 15:24
I wasn't trying to stir the s#!t, and I know reading something doesn't really give it the proper context, but in my mind the tone was unfortunate. I guess not all people can fathom someone taking their own life when maybe on the outside it doesn't look so bad. But remember, this is a MENTAL illness, and when put up against, let's say, Stephen Hawking who suffers a massive physical disability, it might not seem obvious as to why the person took such drastic measures. I suppose that is the nature of mental illness.

Thank you for supporting independently produced music

Posted By: rushfan4
Date Posted: March 16 2016 at 16:29
There is a reason that they weren't Emerson Lake and Palmer anymore and for most of the last 35 or so years.  The egos and personalities clashed.  I suspect that there is something to that to what Greg Lake is quoted as saying.  Maybe implying that Keith needed a Snickers because he just wasn't himself when he was depressed....or some such think like this. 


Posted By: KingCrInuYasha
Date Posted: March 16 2016 at 17:04
Originally posted by JD JD wrote:

I wasn't trying to stir the s#!t...

Don't worry about it. I think a lot of people, myself included, sometime tend to take for granted a healthy state of mind.

He looks at this world and wants it all... so he strikes, like Thunderball!

Posted By: infandous
Date Posted: March 23 2016 at 12:17
One of the things people often say when someone takes their own life is, "what a waste (of whatever...talent, intelligence, etc.)".  I think that was probably Lake's thinking when he said those things.  Like most people who don't have or have suffered from depression, he probably just doesn't understand why someone would get to that point.  In that regard, he is really like most people.  Anger can sometimes be a reaction to someone taking their own life as well (as in, why did you do that??).  It's just human's acting like humans.

That said, I totally agree that more awareness about depression is needed and that it would be a great cause for prog (and other music genre's) to take up.

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