Keith Emerson, founder and keyboardist of the progressive-rock band Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, has died. He was 71. Emerson's longtime partner, Mari Kawaguchi, called police to his condominium in Santa Monica, California, at about 1:30am on Friday. Emerson had an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and authorities are investigating his death as a possible suicide. A musical prodigy, Emerson was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire in England. By his late teens, he was playing in blues and jazz clubs in London. He helped form one of the first progressive rock groups, the Nice, before hooking up with drummer Carl Palmer and vocalist/guitarist Greg Lake in 1970 and debuting with them at the Isle of Wight Festival.
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer went on to become giants of prog rock in the 1970s, recording six platinum-selling albums. They and other hit groups such as Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues stepped away from rock's emphasis on short songs with dance beats, instead creating albums with ornate pieces full of complicated rhythms, intricate chords, and time signature changes. ELP broke up in 1979, reunited in 1991, later disbanded again, and reunited one last time for a 2010 tour. Throughout, Emerson continued to compose and perform, sometimes solo and other times with various musicians, including Lake. Palmer said in a statement that Emerson "was a pioneer and an innovator whose musical genius touched all of us in the worlds of rock, classical, and jazz." (Read more rock music stories.)