Friday, 9 December 2016

"So he laid down and he died"

Is it OK to title an obituary post with such a line, even if it is taken from the last verse of one of the recently-departed's earliest compositions?

Here are some prophetic words from 1969, which still resonate in the present, from the King Crimson track 'Epitaph', sung by Greg Lake.

"Knowledge is a deadly friend
 If no-one sets the rules.
 The fate of all mankind, I see,
 Is in the hands of fools."

On Thursday, this week, it was this song which sprung to mind in the numbing silence and hollow blackness I felt on hearing the sad news of Greg's passing. I was going to write that his voice and lyrics scripted my late teens, but that would be woefully inaccurate. Jings, the guy influenced my world view for decades, mainly along with his fellow band members of ELP (Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer) and also his song-writing collaborator Pete Sinfield.

Tonight, I'm listening to tunes from King Crimson (1969), ELP (1970-79), Greg's solo stuff (1981-83), Emerson, Lake and Powell (1986) and ELP (1992).

In 'Battlefield' from ELP's Tarkus album, it was clear that he didn't warm to war: 

"Clear the battlefield and let me see
 All the profit from our victory.
 You talk of freedom, starving children fall.
 Are you deaf when you hear the seasons call?

Religion got short shrift, too, in songs like 'Mass' (Tarkus) and 'I Believe In Father Christmas' (eventually released on Works Volume 2), but a few lines in 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' (from Works Volume 1) showed a, maybe, subtler understanding:

"You needn't be well to be wealthy
 But you've got to be whole to be holy."

There were early signs of environmentalism in 'Knife Edge' from ELP's debut album in 1970, but perhaps Greg's most ecological song was 1992's 'Black Moon' from the ELP album of the same name:

"Just take a look around the world
 The future never waits
 We're skating on thin ice
 And we're in the hands of Fate.
 What we need's a little re-direction
 To find our blue lagoon.
 You know, it wouldn't come
 A moment too soon.
 Black Moon."

Any of these lyrics would be a fitting epitaph, I reckon.

Rest in peace, Greg.


Mark said...

Sad day really.I wasn't aware of Greg Lake's passing until reading your blog. I' m not a massive ELP fan, tho I did have the albums back in the 70's vinyl days. However GL early Crimso material certainly shaped my musical landscape. My new poem blog has been released btw there is a unique competition at the end that you might appreciate. I am sat here listening to Schumans 4th symphony but when I reach the car that will change to the Beatles White album then my Wife will get in and there will beno music at all! Phew that was nearly as long as one of your blogs! My sincere
best wishes, Mark.

Imperfect and Tense said...

My musical highlight of the week was guessing the answer to a quiz question. It was during a round of 20 intros for artists/songs with a coastal or marine theme (annual Environmental group quiz night). I recognised the riff as a Heart song, but couldn't think of any track titles. Eventually, I hopefully wrote down 'Barracuda', and it was correct!