The BBC has confirmed that Greg Lake, founding member of iconic prog rock bands Emerson, Lake & Palmer and King Crimson, has died. According to his manager, he had been undergoing “a long and stubborn battle with cancer.” Lake was 69.
Lake was born in England in 1947, and he began learning how to play guitar when he was 12. After taking lessons for a while, though, he decided to quit when he realized his instructor wasn’t going to teach him any rock ’n’ roll songs. He started playing in small-time bands in the area and eventually met Robert Fripp, who was from the same town as him and asked Lake to be the singer and bassist for a new band he was putting together.
That band was King Crimson, and after losing the original producer for the group’s debut album, Lake stepped forward and produced it himself. The album—1969’s In The Court Of The Crimson King—received critical and commercial acclaim, prompting a pair of United Kingdom and United States tours.
While touring behind In The Court Of The Crimson King, Lake befriended Keith Emerson, the keyboardist for opening act The Nice, and the two decided to start their own band together. Along with drummer Carl Palmer, they formed prog rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer. As Rolling Stone notes, the band was a “near-instant hit,” and all of the albums it put out in the ‘70s went gold in the United States.
Lake pursued a solo career after Emerson, Lake & Palmer broke up in 1979, but he reunited with the other two guys in the ‘90s and played with them live for the last time in 2010 at London’s High Voltage festival. In 2015, Drive-By Truckers covered his solo song “I Believe In Father Christmas” for The A.V. Club.
Lake’s death comes only a few months after the death of bandmate Keith Emerson, who died in March.