Rachel Flowers

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My Thoughts About Keith Emerson

I’m trying to think of the best way to say these thoughts. It’s very interesting listening to Emerson’s recordings and catching the difference in his playing later on. My favorites are the early stuff from the 1960s and 1970s. That’s when he was at his very best! He played a lot of amazing things on the piano, Hammond organ, and the Moog synthesizer, combining both classical and jazz styles together.

Keith was my introduction to keyboards. It was really cool what he did, adding a mixture of Bach, Copland, some jazz, and blues together to create his sound. He was also really amazing at orchestration in his improvizations on the piano, Hammond organ, and synth. Some piano and organ examples include: The Nice – Rondo 69, She Belongs to Me, America from the Elegy album, and Hang On to a Dream also from the Elegy album. Some of the synthesizer solos that stand out for me include: ELP – Trilogy, the last section in the live version of Tarkus from the live album Welcome Back My Friends…, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Abaddon’s Bolero.

He was very influential for me when it came to the Hammond organ. Pictures at an Exhibition and Knife Edge were the songs that got me interested in playing the organ. Then it was Karn Evil 9, Tarkus, Rondo from the Isle of Wight performance, then a lot of The Nice starting with the Tchaikovsky Pathetique third movement, then Country Pie, Little Arabella, the Intermezzo from Karelia Suite by Sibelius, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, and Five Bridges.

He did a lot of wild effects with the instrument: turning the motor
on and off, using the noise from the reverb springs, etc. Those things were done with the Hammond L100. Also, for the piano, he plucked the strings for the beginning of Take a Pebble.

I would like to think before he had the nerve condition, he played
so many fun things – his unique use of intervals, lots of wide chord stretches (the song Nighthawking from the Nighthawks soundtrack which is also from the compilation At The Movies), fast arpeggios and phrases with lots of excitement (probably the most famous would be his solo spot from the Cal Jam performance during the Brain Salad Surgery tour), and so many other examples. You can feel the joy and excitement when he played those things, particularly in the Welcome Back My Friends album.

I was really glad to meet him for a brief time. He was really nice. I miss him.

Rachel Flowers

13 comments

  1. Wow, that are very nice words, from you, who I will respect as his one and only follow up. Be Inspired and get joy out of his performances when he was at his best. Good Luck with your musical career. I will keep an eye of you! Because I appreciate your (Emerson) distorted tacky play!

    1. Hello Rachel, Your comments on Emerson, are still on point, this player was a rare breed. All of us should carry Keith’s Musical torch forward.

  2. Thank you ever so much Rachel for talking so nicely about Mr Keith Emerson who was to me (and to many others around the world) one of the greatest keyboards players and a musical genius at large; My first encounter with ELP in the 70’s came as a real shock to me as I first heard “par hasard” Keith Emerson’s Moog synthesizer’s and Hammond organ’s solo out of an open window somewhere in Toulouse, France, as he played “Blues Variations” from the “Pictures at an Exhibition” vinyl record of course!; “What a thrill, what a thrill!”Greg Lake would have sung…I was so d….blown away! I had never before heard such a sound and virtuosity mixed together, and from that day on I became a huge ELP unconditional “fan”, and still am at 58, endlessly listening to 74’s ELP live performance of “Welcome Back My Friends To the Show That Never Ends” in my car, and well I guess that thanks to people like you, Rachel, it will actually “never end”! Will you please excuse my “written logorrhea” but as it comes to Keith and Music in general I cannot seem to come to a halt. A tear rolls down my cheek as I listen to this Music and think what a nice (!) and gentle man Keith Emerson was off stage… Only now people begin to realize the impact he had on musicians such as Steve Porcaro or Jordan Rudess, to name but a few… And of course you are one of them, Rachel. God Bless You. Yours sincerely, Jean-Claude, Toulouse (France).

    1. Dear Jean-Claude,

      Thank you for sharing your story with us. That is the Keith Emerson that we knew, and the more we hear from those who were touched by his life, that is indeed the real Keith Emerson. It warmed my heart to read your story. You have a memory to cherish forever.

      All our best to you,
      Jeanie and Rachel

  3. Rachel please accept my respects. You are a great person and artist Just go on. I’m sure the best of your art is still to come. Rachel favor acepte mis respetos. Usted es una gran persona y artista. Sólo tiene que seguir adelante. Estoy seguro de que lo mejor de su arte está aún por llegar.

  4. Hi, That is an amazing story. I am happy you shared it. I share your like with ELP. I saw them 2 times in Montreal in 1977,1978. My hero was Carl Palmer on drums, but I had followed each one of them in their careers. I had liked very much Greg Lakes history with King Crimson, who I also liked alot, 1970-1980 was the era in which i really loved what they had to offer in those times.Keith was a real showman, leaping over his keyboard. Those were cherish memories. I’d like to hear you play some King Crimson. You are quite an accomplished musician.

  5. Found your playing on youtube in search of tributes to Keith Emerson. The collaboration on The Endless Enigma is a thing of beauty. I still choke up after all these years when the triangle is tapped during the piano solo. Something about ELP hit me the right way even from their first recording, but Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery are master works of the Rock Era. I recently watched interviews with all three, and what I took from it was, their just guys. The neighbor you borrow a tool from, have a beer or share barbecue, but when they put the the axe in their hands, amazing sounds. As a musician in the 70’s my influences were Jeff Beck, Jack Bruce, Donald Fagen and Keith Emerson. I always imagine that Emerson’s influences were Gershwin,Brubeck and countless Ragtime piano players. I was saddened that he may have been so depressed that he ended it all, but knowing that his compositions live through yourself and others is a great thing. If you ever get to Cincinnati I will definitely see that show. Stay true to your self. I am so glad I found your talent.

  6. The thing that meant more to me about Keith Emerson than any of the albums, keyboards I have bought and played (badly). Nor has it been the concerts or any of the merchandising. I was in London one day in the 1970s quite unwell with something quite serious at the time but no doubt easily cured with a pill today. I wandered into Manticore Music and asked for Keith Emerson. The lady running the office could see that I was unwell and apologised that ELP weren’t in that day. A week to the day, I was at home when a photo of Keith arrived with a note which said: From one Keith to another. My office tells me that you haven’t been too well. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you called. We all hope that you get better soon, Keith That proved to me that as well as a keyboard god, Keith Emerson was a nice man who took the trouble to write me a note wishing me well soon. I will never forget Keith Emerson the rocker who cared enough to write me a letter. There, I’ve been wanting to get that off my chest for forty years.

    1. Dear Keith in Scotland,

      We are honored that you chose to share your story here.

      Keith Emerson was more than a rock star, more than a keyboard virtuoso, more than a genius composer, arranger, and performer. He was a towering example of humanity at its finest and we are blessed to have met him and been a small part of his life.

      Rachel will continue to carry the torch. Keith will live forever through his music.

      Our hearts are with you,
      Jeanie Flowers for Rachel Flowers

    2. This is so nice to learn. Since as you and many music lovers are crazy about Keith as one of the most genius composer and keyboardist ever. We are so happy to hear that beyond that he was a kind person, which is a great value!

  7. I could ramble on for days about what Keith Emerson did for me for my entire life. I had always heard Lucky Man, Still, You Turn Me On, Karn Evil 9, From The Beginning and the other “radio hits”, even heard Hoedown a time or two… But it was around 1989 when I was still only 16 years old that I decided I better check more into this awesome band and developed a keen interest in synthesizers, particularly the Moog modular system. It was then that I REALLY discovered Keith Emerson. I can’t even adequately put into words what an inspiration Keith Emerson was on me! Let’s just say he changed my musical outlook for many years to come.

    All these years later I happen upon these Rachel Flowers videos and I am just blown away by Rachel’s passion and devotion in her playing. Her passion and devotion to Keith Emerson. She is such a bright, shining light in this rather dim “future” we find ourselves in. Her enthusiasm and her unbridled joy when she plays is simply amazing. I have shared the videos on Facebook and told my circle of friends that Rachel should be the cultural icon, not these “hacks” like Kanye West that just pretty much lack in everything musical and stride along on their manufactured fame. Not to get too deeply negative though, I’ll just focus on how much joy and inspiration I get from watching Rachel play these songs so perfectly (with occasional small mistakes) that I have listened to hundreds of times in my life. Rachel, you are amazing! Just please keep the fire burning! I am a fan of yours! I get really inspired by every aspect of your playing. It is everything that real, true music is and should be.

    Rachel deserves fame and fortune. She is a rare, rare talent and having never met her, I’m just completely in love with her! She is so wonderful! I have attempted to play keyboards but I was unfortunately born quite tone-deaf! Doesn’t do me much good! Thank God I have some natural rhythmic abilities and have a pretty solid handle on playing the drums. My keyboard playing is limited to plunking around and making some interesting noises – I’m more gifted at sound-design than I am at playing beautiful music. But I find inspiration in watching young Rachel Flowers and I imagine she would be great fun to play in an ensemble with! Best of luck to you, Rachel. You deserve everything and more in the world of music and even in life. Your inspiration to me isn’t limited to music. Your love of life and floods of joy gushed out after most pieces are truly exciting and inspirational! I just love it! Cheers to you!

  8. Thanks Rachel kind words indeed. Keith Emerson was a huge force in my life when I was a teenager and his music will always be with me. It is wonderful that young people like yourself have picked up the baton and are now not just playing his music but taking it to another level. Will try and get to Birmingham in July to see your concert. Best Wishes
    David Jarrett

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