Lamenting Fallen Legends

Posted on December 8, 2017


Note: I posted this one year ago today and reread it the other day. For whatever reason, I have a particular fondness for this blog, and I believe the message is worth repeating. I have picked up many new readers since this was posted, and I hope you will enjoy reading this short recollection / message.

By David Ettinger

High School Days
Long before coming to Christ, I loved rock music and especially – growing up in the 1970s – “progressive rock” music.

By far and away, my favorite band was a British trio called Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Brilliant musicians whose roots were in classical music, I loved these guys – the only band elpwhose poster ever graced my wall. I saw the trio – Keith Emerson, keyboards; Greg Lake, vocals and guitars; and Carl Palmer, percussion – in concert in December of 1973 at Madison Square Garden. I braved a frightful snowstorm and equally frightful, post-midnight subway journey back home to Queens, New York, to see them, but it was worth it. To me, ELP were larger-than-life legends, and I wore out their albums listening to them.

No other band ever captured my imagination as much this trio of prog-rock superstars.

Outgrowing Them
However, I eventually outgrew ELP. This happened at age 17 upon high school graduation and my move to New Mexico 3½ years later. Though I continued to listen to ELP, the poster came down and I was no longer infatuated with the band, especially after they broke up in 1980, the year I got married.

Being a husband and father sharply reduced my music-listening time, and over the next five years I only pulled out an ELP album once or twice a year. In 1986, an odd thing happened. My then-2½-year-old son and I were enjoying a summer day together on the campus of New Mexico State University. As we were walking near the Pan American Center, I heard ELP music emerging from the premises. How odd.

After some inquiries, I discovered something even odder: the music coming from inside was live, and it WAS ELP! (The “P” was not Palmer, however, as he had moved on.) However, the “E” WAS Keith Emerson, and the “L” WAS Greg Lake. They were planning an ELP comeback and, for some strange reason, picked El Paso, Texas (just down the road) as their unlikely opening city, and were rehearsing up on the NMSU campus, right there in the desert of the great American Southwest.


However, my emotions were muted: I was in the midst of getting divorced, and the thrill I would have gotten from such a coincidence was gone. Still, I attended their El Paso concert and enjoyed it quite a bit, though in no way approaching what I experienced back in the blizzard of 1973.

By October of 1986, the divorce became a reality, I gave my life to Jesus Christ, and I was experiencing new life in Him. One way I marked this new life was by getting rid of all my rock albums, including my seven ELP offerings.

A New Appreciation
Until about five years ago, ELP barely registered a blip in my consciousness. However, one restless night while I was perusing YouTube, I came across an ELP video and watched it. And liked it. And then watched another. And another. I gained a new appreciation for the instrumental virtuosity of the trio, and was not too upset to be reacquainted with my childhood musical “crush.” Since then, I occasionally indulge in an ELP blast from the past. (I especially like their rendition of the classic English hymn “Jerusalem.”)

Why am I sharing this with you? My mind and memories were ignited by the sad news yesterday (December 7, 2016) that Greg Lake died at age 69 following a long battle with cancer. Greg’s passing comes nine months following the tragic passing at age 71 of Keith Emerson, whose depression caused him to take his own life. Now only Carl Palmer remains as two of the looming legends of my youth have met very sad demises.

As a Christian, I can never receive the news of an individual’s death without asking: “I wonder if he or she knew the Lord Jesus?”


I ask this because the sad truth is that, as the old expression goes, “no one gets out alive.” Job 14:1 tells us: “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.” Psalm 103:15 reminds us: “As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes.” And to those who worship man, Isaiah 2:22 says: “Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?”

And here is one more somber reminder from the Creator of the Universe, this one courtesy of Hebrews 9:27: “… it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” Yes, all human beings will face Almighty God following this life. We either come to Him bearing eternal guilt or having received the gift of eternal forgiveness. John 3:36 tells us: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

I hope Keith Emerson and Greg Lake knew Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. For a brief time in my life, I regarded them as legends. Legends, however, fall because they are but dust, and must go on to meet Almighty God.

We all will.

Do you know the Savior?