Was Keith Emerson Trolled to Death?

Keith Emerson, the super-influential prog keyboardist/composer of Emerson, Lake and Palmer took his own life last week in a very messy way: a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head at his home in Santa Monica. He was 71.

What drove him to do it? Early rumours suggested health issues that may have stemmed from a colon problem several years ago. Now, though, his girlfriend is claiming that he was basically trolled to death. The Daily Mirror wrote this:

It appears that for all his rock dinosaur image, he was the victim of a very modern fate — ‘trolled to death’ by heartless fans who had attacked him online over the quality of his recent music, even suggesting he gave up.

In fact, he had been suffering for years from a debilitating muscular condition that affected the fingers in his right hand.

‘He read all the criticism online and was a sensitive soul,’ said his Japanese girlfriend, Mari Kawaguchi, 52.

Although he had been planning to retire after a string of upcoming concerts in Japan, he was ‘tormented with worry’ that he wouldn’t be good enough, she said. ‘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.’

There’s more from The NME:

“His right hand and arm had given him problems for years,” Kawaguchi said. “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.

I know you’re not supposed to feed the trolls, but sometimes they can be overwhelmingly cruel.

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

15 thoughts on “Was Keith Emerson Trolled to Death?

  • March 14, 2016 at 10:21 am
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    I am a very serious composer being insulted almost daily that I am ugly and worthless. I am one of the most serious progressive musicians in the world today. Rollingstone and Pitchfork magazine put heartless articles on the cover of their newspaper which was defaming to me. It was on the COVER of San Francisco Weekly. It was a mocking and disrespectful article about me. I am being trolled and gang stalked almost daily. I am not dead, and I should be signed. I am a very serious composer, not an entertainer. I seriously doubt that Keith was trolled to death. Ray Manzerak was insulted and mocked on the internet and people said that he should give up music. He did not kill himself. People are insulting Van Der Graaf Generator online right now for disappointing them with their new album which I love. Peter Hammil and his band members love themselves no matter what. Keith did not love himself. Do not blame others for why a person just does not love themselves. I love Keith and would have done anything to help him. He was not a tough person.

    Reply
    • March 15, 2016 at 5:34 am
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      I must agree with you at some points and disagree at others. I believe it is his own responsibility once (supposedly) he commit suicide, so we can’t accept any implying it was fan’s fault. But I disagree that he was not a tough person. In my view he was a very tough person, but unfortunately at the end he had severe depression. He’s been through hell and stood tall every time except last week. He was heavily trolled in the ’70s by punk criticism and critics that decided to favor “roots” rock music and attack Prog Rock unfairly. He had heavy financial problems in 1977 and during the ’90s. He’s dealt with “pretentious” accusations all his life. He was able to laugh about it all until last week. My view is that a person in deep depression is not himself/herself anymore, his/her strength is not available anymore. He probably needed intervention. You didn’t say that, so please don’t take it as if I was addressing this thought to you (I am not), but I must add it is always easier to say suicidals are cowards, but do we know what they were dealing with? Do we know if they were mentally ill when they did it? How bad can things look when your neurotransmitters are a mess?

      Reply
    • March 17, 2016 at 7:25 pm
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      Marissa sorry but who are you

      Reply
        • December 9, 2016 at 2:26 pm
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          Who said that I want to be on a label? Decca and Derum and excellent record labels that signed Principal Edwards Magic Theater and unbelievably talented musicians and artists were made obsolete. There are NO record companies that exist in that industry who sign psychedelic rock, psychedelic folk, progressive and experimental modern musicians today…What you are talking about is irrelevant to music. It is not about deserving a record deal, it is about signing artistic people to make high quality records. You are obviously trying to dumb down the conversation about who I am. Changing the subject and saying that my name is really something else is a way to take subject off of music!!!!!!! You a stalker and a tabloid writer. You know nothing about, only about writing tabloids…talking a out Marissa Marchant selling 1000 dollar cds is a way for you to disguise the fact that you can not talk about music!!! STALKER!

          Reply
      • March 22, 2016 at 5:34 pm
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        You’re speaking to Marissa Marchant. That’s right, THE Marissa Marchant (now known as Virgo Rouge apparently).

        Reply
        • April 28, 2016 at 12:14 am
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          Some ethic backgrounds are smarter than others. Asian or east Asians are smarter on the average than Europeans…and we all know who the smartest people are on earth. They are also not Brits and they want center stage. They are not dumb but not as smart as other people in Europe on the average. They are ruining our culture. We have the dumbest people running that industry who promote the dumbest people in the US. People compare me to a woman who can barely play an instrument who has five videos of herself playing basic chords. The industry needs to be boycotted. I have videos made about it. I am not French. I am proud of who I am and where I was born…I am a lot smarter than the people who insult me all the time too. We need SMART people in power and in that industry. Not all jews are smart…we need smart people to be in power…period…there are dumb Asians too..we need SMART PEOPLE to take over…

          Reply
        • July 2, 2016 at 3:38 pm
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          When people have real talent and they are not songwriters but composers of a serious kind and can sing well too, everyone who is anyone with insecurities problems will hate on them. YOU ARE INSANE!!!!!!! Those harass troll and insult people who are real musicians because there is nothing there…that industry is DEAD
          You are insane, jealous and troling me with lies…because you have nothing going for yourself. JEALOUS JEALOUS JEALOUS

          Reply
  • March 15, 2016 at 12:13 am
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    “…said his Japanese girlfriend…” Relevant reporting by the Mirror.
    How sad is this though. 🙁

    Reply
  • March 15, 2016 at 9:01 am
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    Just to put the record straight, it was the Daily Mail not the Mirror that penned that article.

    Great contributions from you both – especially about depression and standing tall.

    I think that it must be a very bleak experience when you can see that you are “running out of road” as an artist. At some point, Robin Williams (Parkinson’s/neural problems), Ronnie Scott, (great saxophonist who could no longer play because gum disease destroyed his embouchure) or Keith Emerson (arm) all saw that being unable to do what they lived for was unbearable.

    They were absolutely defined by what they did. They were high performing, dedicated people. All three were brilliant depressives and clearly, performance is a moment when the depression is boxed away while your realisation really, really lives.

    We can’t blame the trolls as the primary cause here. The typically prurient Daily Mail has almost certainly inflated that theory in keeping with the house style.

    Greg Lake has stated that Keith was a lonely, troubled man and yet, as can be seen from Facebook or newsclips about performances (2015 Barbican etc) , he continued to be genial and connected with different projects.

    People talk about interventions but for these types, only performance validates them and all other activities are displacement. Unlike some of the great Classical performers who managed to perform into their 80s and 90s (think Segovia, Rubinstein, Brendel) Ronnie, Robin and Keith hit a wall that defied them.

    Reply
  • March 15, 2016 at 11:43 am
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    Focal dystonia, musician/writer’s cramp, like Parkinson’s, is a neurological disorder that afflicts high-end professionals of repetitive work/passion. There is no cure, although DBS is an alternative down the road for some. It’s more than a musical decline or career-ender; it’s a life-changer that strikes at the inner-heart of you and attacks your passion; your art; your love. Knowledge is strength and support is crucially required in this era of so much public attack ignorance. Please, people, research, understand, get support, embrace, accept, move forward, and let’s get a cure. It doesn’t have to be like this.

    Reply
  • March 15, 2016 at 12:02 pm
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    The internet is a great place for cowardly scum to rise to the surace and present their vacuous venom. None of these so called Trolls have a single atom of the musical skill that Keith Emerson had. That’s why they sit at home writing their pathetic, hateful shit. They’re just full of that & nothing more.

    Reply
  • March 21, 2016 at 8:53 am
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    it’s odd that just over the past month of my past 5 decades of life I’ve just started watching ELP online, concerts I’ve missed in the 70s and 80s. I am sad and angry at Keith’s demise. Couldn’t his girlfriend have done something? He shoulda been loved more.

    Reply
    • March 23, 2016 at 3:47 pm
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      @ana – Who are you to judge what his girlfriend (Mari Kawaguchi) should or should not have done? You obviously know nothing of either of them… you’re no better than the trolls who help bring this great man to the brink of ultimate despair.

      Reply
    • April 9, 2017 at 11:41 pm
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      I am a longtime ELP fan: *R.I.P. Keith and Greg*. Keith’s suicide was such a tragic loss.
      Mental illness remains a major stigma in the USA, even for the talented and famous. If more people suffering from suicidal thoughts felt they could be free to open-up about their pain and get compassionate support, maybe things would change for us and for our loved ones.
      Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the USA and rising; highest among middle-aged men, #1 method is by firearms. For anyone interested, a recent article: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/04/22/suicide-rate-rise-us/83284568/ An interesting excerpt from it: “Many people view suicide as a mental health problem, but many people who die of suicide do not have a mental health problem. It’s a public health problem”…

      As regards the news surrounding Keith’ Emerson’s untimely death–the story seems odd in ways. Odd that girlfriend Mari blames online Trolls for Keith’s demise, seems unlikely, additional factors must have been involved. Sadly, she had her “15min of fame” due to his death.
      Also odd that in interview, girlfriend stated that Keith had bronchitis when she ‘tucked him into bed’ Thursday night before leaving the apartment that they shared in Santa Monica. Not returning until early Friday morning to find him dead from self-inflicted shotgun wound. I wondered: where did she go? why did she leave? He was physically ill from bronchitis and debilitating neurological pain in his right hand, in addition to being emotionally unstable and depressed, perhaps moreso than was typical for him during his decades-long suffering from the pain of depression.
      I also wondered why guns were not hidden or removed to prevent self-harm if Keith was being left alone. *Conclusion* no blame is intended toward girlfriend Mari for the tragedy, but at same time her assigning the blame of Keith’s death to online Trolls seems inaccurate and unfair.
      The world lost a musical master in Keith Emerson, he will be missed. Thanks for reading.

      Reply

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