The story behind "Lucky Man" is the kind rock historians love. Even though "From the Beginning" would reach a higher rank in the charts (number 39 in 1972 in the U.S., against number 39 in 1971 for "Lucky Man") it became Emerson, Lake & Palmer's best-known song, thanks to constant FM radio airplay and inclusions on literally dozens of rock compilation albums.
All that fame and fortune almost never happened. The group was signed very quickly to record its first album. On the last day of recording, it became obvious there was not enough material to fulfill the contract requirements of 21 minutes of music per LP side. The trio needed one more song, but they had already recorded all they had. Greg Lake started playing a ballad he had written when he was 12 years old -- 12-string guitar and vocals, very folk-pop. The group had never envisioned this kind of music to be their "sound" and frankly, everything else on the album is very remote from this style. But stuck at the 11th hour, the group started to record, improvising the arrangements as they laid down track after track. Emerson's landmark Moog solo at the end was his first take (and he wasn't even aware the tape was running). A set of circumstances and the song of a child became ELP's long-lasting hit and consequently forced the group to make room for more such ballads in the future.
The story of a man who had everything, went to war, and died, "Lucky Man" will often be used as the perfect example of Lake's lack of depth and naïveté. Nevertheless, the song would remain in the trio's and the singer's solo live shows forever. Performances vary very little from one year to another, except for the occasional solo acoustic rendition. In the 1990s Lake was starting to find the highest notes difficult to reach, but his fans simply wouldn't let him drop the song.