Lake’s memoirs explore progressive rock career

One of the most prominent figures of progressive rock was the late guitarist and vocalist Greg Lake. From the band King Crimson to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Lake’s contributions have left an indelible impact on the genre’s creation and evolution.

Shortly after discovering that he had terminal cancer, Lake set to work on his memoirs, which were completed shortly before he succumbed to illness last December at the age of 69.

Finally hitting store shelves less than a year later, Lucky Man: The Autobiography tells Lake’s story in a way that comes completely full circle compared to most other rock biographies. The title for this book is very apt. Not only was it the name of ELP’s breakthrough single, it also describes Lake’s outlook on life as a cancer victim.

Considering that he lived a life of fame and fortune that most aspiring musicians could only dream of, Lake really did live out his classic song as a lucky man.

The first and most notable thing about Lake’s storytelling is that it sticks first and foremost to the music. After a lengthy prologue that transports the reader to the backstage of Madison Square Garden in 1973, Lake’s childhood and early years are truncated into a single chapter.

From the second chapter on, the tenures of his various bands and projects takes the centerfold. Given that ELP was notorious for being the epitome of the supposed excesses of progressive rock, one would expect the book to be filled with various humorous examples of how Lake and his bandmates lived out their rock ‘n’ roll lifestyles. Overly personal details of his life and his relationship with his bandmates are largely pushed aside in favor of talking about his musical career.

Lake shows nothing but respect for not only his bandmates, but also for his managers, road crew and other musicians he has worked with, including Asia, The Who and Ringo Starr, among others.

The only real moment when Lake gets personal with a fellow bandmate is when he talks about Keith Emerson’s tragic suicide in April 2016. Hearing how Emerson’s death affected Lake adds a touching element of humanity and mortality that ultimately leads to both the book’s, and by extension Lake’s life’s, conclusion.

While some rock biographies often tend to have the subject try and deflect responsibility and blame for certain negative aspects of their lives, Lake’s own life, not perfect by any means, is looked back on in the last months of his life with humor and honesty.

The addition of several snapshots of Lake and his bands also adds a level of heartwarming depth to the book. The epilogue of the book was written by Lake’s manager Stewart Young after Lake’s death.

It is not so much a regular death announcement of a client, as it is a touching eulogy to a dear friend, complete with a look into Lake’s final days of life. This book is a definite recommendation for fans of ELP and progressive rock, but regular readers could get something out of this book as well, especially regarding Lake’s cancer battle.