A Rockapaedia Obituary
Bands: King Crimson. Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
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Greg Lake died aged sixty-nine in London from cancer. Numerous fellow musicians paid tribute, including Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett, Ringo Starr, John Wetton, and Carl Palmer.
In late 1974, Greg Lake had moved from a flat in Cornwall Gardens in Kensington, London, to a home near Windsor. He later lived in the Kingston and Richmond areas of London with his wife Regina. The couple had one daughter, Natasha. Greg Lake was born on 10th November 1947 in Poole, Dorset, UK. and was known to say that he was "born in an asbestos prefab housing unit" but credited his parents for sending him money and food during his time as a struggling musician. He also spoke of his upbringing as a happy time.
Greg Lake discovered rock and roll in 1957 when he bought Little Richard's record "Lucille" then at the age of twelve he first learned to play the guitar and wrote his first song, "Lucky Man", which he merely committed to memory. He recalled his mother, a pianist, as his initial musical influence. She bought Greg a second hand guitar to learn on and then he took guitar lessons from Don Strike, who had a shop in Westbourne. Strike taught him with reading musical notation exercises and playing 1930's pop tunes, the latter of which became an influence on Greg at the time. After roughly one year with Strike, Greg Lake ended his tuition as he wished to learn songs by The Shadows and his second guitar was a pink Fender Stratocaster.
Greg Lake attended Junior School then Secondary Modern School and after leaving school he then took up work loading and unloading cargo at the Poole docks, and as a draughtsman for a short period. Greg Lake then decided to become a full-time musician at the age of seventeen.
Greg Lake joined his first band, Unit Four, playing cover songs as their singer and guitarist, through 1965. Following their split, Greg Lake and Unit Four bassist Dave Genes formed another covers group, the Time Checks, until 1966. He then became a member of The Shame, where he is featured on their single, "Don't Go Away Little Girl", written by Janis Ian. During his stay in Carlisle for a gig, Greg Lake contracted pneumonia and continued to perform on stage. His bandmates refused to drive back home that night, leaving Greg to sleep in the van where he "woke up blue".
Following a brief stint in the Shy Limbs, by 1968 Greg Lake was involved with The Gods, based in Hatfield, which he described as "a very poor training college", but the group secured a residency at the Marquee Club in London. Greg Lake left the group in 1968 over creative differences as the band were to enter the recording studio. Their keyboardist Ken Hensley later said that Greg "was far too talented to be kept in the background".
Greg Lake formed a friendship with future King Crimson co-founder and guitarist Robert Fripp, who was also from Dorset, had received lessons from Strike, and saw Greg perform in Unit Four in Poole. Fripp was asked to be a roadie for a gig at Ventnor, Isle of Wight, but no audience turned up. Consequently, Lake and Fripp decided to just play tunes from their guitar lessons that Strike had taught them.
Fripp formed King Crimson since his previous group, Giles, Giles and Fripp was not commercially successful, and their record company suggested getting a proper lead singer. He chose Lake for this role, but asked him to play bass instead of guitar to avoid having to get a bass player into the group. This marked Greg Lake's first time playing the instrument as he had primarily been a guitarist for the previous eleven years. Though Peter Sinfield was the band's lyricist, Greg Lake had some involvement in the lyrics for their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King. After their contracted producer Tony Clarke walked away from the project, Greg Lake produced the album. Released in October 1969, the album was an immediate commercial and critical success, as Greg Lake recalled: "There was this huge wave of response. The audiences were really into us because we were an underground thing – the critics loved us because we offered something fresh".
'King Crimson' supported the album 'In the Court of the Crimson King' with a tour of the UK and the USA, with some of the shows featuring rock band the Nice as the opening act. During the US leg, Greg Lake struck up a friendship with Nice keyboardist Keith Emerson; the two shared similar musical interests and talked about the benefits of forming a new group. When King Crimson returned to the UK in early 1970, Greg Lake agreed to sing on the band's second album, In the Wake of Poseidon, and appear on the music television show Top of the Pops with them, performing the song "Cat Food".
In April 1970, Greg Lake left King Crimson and reunited with Keith Emerson, along with drummer Carl Palmer of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster to form the progressive rock supergroup, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Greg Lake began with a Fender bass before he switched to a Gibson Ripper. As well as bass, Greg Lake contributed acoustic and electric guitar work to Emerson Lake & Palmer, and his voice had a wider and more diverse range than anything The Nice had recorded. Emerson, Lake & Palmer became one of the most successful groups in the 1970's. Greg Lake became known for performing on a Persian carpet on stage, which originally sold for £1,500 and, by 1976, had increased its value to £7,000.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer conflicted between Emerson's interest in complex, classically-influenced music and Greg Lake's more straightforward rock tastes. Greg Lake complained that Emerson chose to play in keys that were not a good fit for his voice. During the making of the band's second album Tarkus, Greg Lake initially rejected the title track, but was persuaded to record it following a band meeting with management, which ended in the addition of an original Lake tune, "Battlefield", into the suite. Greg Lake's track "From the Beginning", released on Trilogy in 1972, had no particular source of inspiration; "I just felt an inspiration to do it, and it flowed through me in a natural way. My hands fell upon these very unusual chords ... It was kind of a gift". It was released as a single, and reached number thirty-nine in the USA.
In 1974, Emerson, Lake & Palmer took a break in activity.Greg Lake used this time to focus on his family life, travel, and write and release music. By then the band were tax exiles and relocated to Switzerland, France, Canada and the Bahamas as they were restricted to two months stay in England a year. In March 1977 the band released Works Volume 1, a double album featuring one side dedicated to each member. Greg Lake wrote five acoustic songs with lyrical assistance from Sinfield, with a conscious effort not to record "just ballads" and attempt a wider variety of musical styles. He then incorporated orchestral overdubs to the songs. One of them, "C'est la Vie", was released as a single. Greg Lake called the album the "beginning of the end" of the band, as he no longer produced their future albums, neither of which were a "really innovative record".
Emerson, Lake & Palmer split in 1979 following the unsuccessful album 'Love Beach', an album the group were contractually obliged to record. The group reformed for a number of years in the mid-1990s before permanently disbanding barring a one-off gig in 2010 at London's High Voltage Festival.
In 1975, while still a member of ELP, Greg Lake achieved solo chart success when his single, "I Believe in Father Christmas", reached number two on the UK Singles Chart. It has become a Yuletide perennial. In the UK, the single sold over 13,000 copies in two days.
Several months following the break-up of ELP in 1979, Greg Lake began to write new songs and had "put down a tremendous amount of material" for his first solo album. He travelled to Los Angeles and worked with a group of session musicians to develop his songs further, but he found a lack of personality in the music, though not at the fault of the performers.Greg Lake realised he wished to play as part of a group, and began to assemble members of the Greg Lake Band. The result, 'Greg Lake', was released in September 1981 on Chrysalis Records, which reached number 62 in the UK and the USA. Greg Lake supported the album with a tour, of which their debut gig took place in August 1981 at the Reading Festival with Gary Moore on guitars, Ted McKenna on drums, Tommy Eyre on keyboards, and Triss Margetts on bass.
Greg Lake's second solo album, Manoeuvres, was released in July 1983. Later that year, he briefly joined the 1980's supergroup Asia, replacing fellow King Crimson alumnus John Wetton, and then co-formed Emerson, Lake & Powell with drummer Cozy Powell.
In 2001, Greg Lake toured as a member of the seventh incarnation of Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. In 2003, Greg Lake played the bass on The Who song "Real Good Looking Boy". The group's usual bassist, Pino Palladino, was set to do it but he was touring during the time of recording, so Greg Lake was asked instead. In 2005, Greg Lake toured Germany and the UK with his assembled group, the Greg Lake Band, which included David Arch on keyboards, Florian Opahle on guitar, Trevor Barry on bass, and Brett Morgan on drums. In 2006, Greg Lake played as a member of the supergroup The RD Crusaders in aid for charity. Greg Lake performed "Karn Evil 9" with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at several shows. He was a special guest on their album 'Night Castle'.
In the year 2010, Greg Lake and Emerson completed an acoustic world tour, performing ELP songs. The tour got off at a bad start following a backstage altercation between the two, but they completed the tour and it was very happy. they actually ended up enjoying themselves. That July, Greg Lake joined Emerson and Palmer for a one-off gig from Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the High Voltage Festival in Victoria Park, London, to commemorate the band's fortieth anniversary. The concert was released on CD, DVD, and Blu-ray as High Voltage. It was the final performance by the group. Greg Lake wished to continue touring, but claimed his bandmates "didn't want to", thus ending such plans. Greg Lake continued to tour solo in the 2010s. His Songs of a Lifetime Tour began in 2012 which featured songs of his career and those by his favourite artists, including Elvis Presley and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates. The tour ended in November of that year and produced the live album, 'Songs of a Lifetime'.
On 9th January 2016, Greg was awarded an honorary degree in music and lyrics composition by Conservatorio Nicolini in Piacenza, Italy, the first degree awarded by the conservatory.
Greg Lake spent several years writing his autobiography 'Lucky Man', originally planned to be published in 2012.
On 19th June 2017, the Municipality of Zoagli Italy awarded the Honorary Citizenship post mortem to Greg Lake and engraved a marble plaque that will be next to Castello Canevaro where he performed on 30th November 2012.