Why Rock Star Greg Lake Will Be Remembered Beyond Emerson, Lake and Palmer

The progressive rocker, who died Wednesday at 69, was sometimes prickly but had a deep well of empathy for others

Last Updated: December 8, 2016 @ 8:58 AM

I still wince when I recall how one of my rock gods cursed at me when I made the mistake of calling him directly for a quote on a story I was working on — back when I should not have been writing stories about anyone.

Greg Lake, who died Wednesday of cancer at age 69, had a distinctive temper that was a thin protective veneer shielding this sensitive man from the world.

As one third of progressive rock super-trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer,  his signature baritone was a bridge between the listener and what was to become the progressive rock movement. Backed by the late Keith Emerson and percussionist Carl Palmer, Lake’s voice would on one song lull the listener into a somnambulistic zone of quiet romanticism — and on the next track disembowel the senses with a battle cry that was a harbinger for the times.

There are many biographies out there on Greg. He was a founding member of King Crimson and along with Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield was responsible for landmark albums like “In the Court of the Crimson King” and songs like “20th Century Schizoid Man.”

However, it is what he accomplished with Emerson, Lake and Palmer that will be how Lake is remembered. In ELP’s “Battlefield” from the Tarkus album, he wrote, “Confusion will be my epitath.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Lake was focused on staying relevant in an industry that all but forgot great songwriting. With then-manager Bruce Pilato, Greg Lake would hit the road and perform — sometimes with his old bandmates, and sometimes without. It was his solo appearances that connected him to his audience. Greg was like us. The years molded him as the years molded us. When Greg took the stage, we would see ourselves. The years, maybe not so kind to Greg — but his voice, that voice — was familiar and safe. When Greg sang ‘Watching Over You’, it was like he was watching over us.

Greg’s penchant for empathy was how I hope he’s remembered. Since 1994, Lake has worked tirelessly for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. After seeing a segment of “America’s Most Wanted” episode on the abduction and murder of 12-year-old Sara Ann Wood, Greg wrote the song “Daddy” which became the anthem for the organization. Greg has toured on behalf of abducted children and raised well over $100,000.

Greg’s outrage at animal cruelty was voiced in this statement, that inspired many fans to become involved in working with foundations that supported the rights of all sentient beings. “Human cruelty towards animals is the most base form of human behavior and often the precursor to acts of cruelty and violence towards other human beings,” he wrote.

My own experience with Greg didn’t end with that early encounter telling me to “F— off.” I connected with him again a couple of years ago on a promotional assignment, and after reminding him who I was and of our encounter, he laughed heartily and we had a great conversation that led to his involvement in a situation of an old college roommate of mine who had suffered a debilitating stroke.

The world will miss Greg Lake.

Winner of the Los Angeles Press Club's best blog award and a Southern California Journalism Award for his HollyBlogs, as well as an award for the Facebook group that helped to muscle the salvation of long-term care for the motion picture and television industry, Stellar's "vituperative blog on TheWrap" (Vanity Fair) focuses on issues related to the motion picture and entertainment industry. Stellar is founder of The Man/Kind Project, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to fight religious and cultural intolerance through the arts while building bridges of tolerance for all people. Stellar lives in Woodland Hills, California, with his wife of over 30 years, Nuala, and much too much Beatles memorabilia.