Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Lucky Man

Composed by Greg Lake

Song Review by

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.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Emerson, Lake & Palmer 1970 BMG / BMG Rights Management 4:39
Brain Salad Surgery 1973 Rhino
No Image 1973
Various Artists
Warner Bros.
The Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer [Atlantic] 1980 Atlantic 4:36
The Atlantic Years 1992 Atlantic 4:37
Classic Rock Box: WNEW-FM 25th Anniversary Box 1992
Various Artists
PolyGram 4:35
Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1993 Castle Music Ltd.
The Return of the Manticore 1993 Rhino 4:37
The Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer [Rhino] 1994 Rhino 4:37
Classic Rock 1995 Rebound Records 4:37
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande
WARW: All Rock Classics, Vol. 2 1995
Various Artists
Varese 4:38
70's Super Groups 1997
Various Artists
Rhino / Essex 4:38
King Biscuit Flower Hour: Greatest Hits Live 1997 King Biscuit Entertainment 3:09
The Ultimate Rock Collection Gold and Platinum, Vol. 2: 1971-1973 1997
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:38
No Image 1998 Manticore 2:53
Best of the Best: 25 Years of Rock 1998
Various Artists
King Biscuit Entertainment 2:38
Then & Now 1998 Eagle Records 5:06
Legends of Rock: British Invasion 1999
Various Artists
Petrock Music 2:49
Extended Versions 2000 BMG Special Products 2:59
The Very Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer 2000 Rhino 4:37
No Image 2001
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:39
Instant Party: More 70's Rock 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 4:37
The Original Bootleg Series From Manticore Vaults, Vol. 2 2001 Castle/Windsong 3:02
The Show That Never Ends 2001 Recall (UK) 5:06
Live at the Royal Albert Hall [DVD] 2001 Image Entertainment
The Original Bootleg Series from the Manticore Vaults, Vol. 3 2002 Castle Music Ltd. 4:49
No Image 2002 Armoury Records
Live in Poland 2003 Metal Mind Productions 4:21
Fanfare: The Best of Live 2003 Demon 2:53
Gold 2003 Retro Music 5:06
Lucky Man and Other Hits 2003 Flashback Records / Rhino Flashback
Morning Side of Love, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Irma Records 4:38
70's Greatest Hits Live 2003
Various Artists
King Biscuit Entertainment 2:41
Live [Disky] 2004 Disky
Fanfare: The 1997 World Tour 2004 Delta Distribution 5:06
From the Front Row... Live! 2004 Silverline Records 2:49
Moog [Original Soundtrack] 2004
Various Artists
Hollywood / Hollywood Records (UK) 4:36
No Image 2004 Castle Music Ltd.
Live at Montreux 1997 [Video] 2004 Eagle Rock
Radio Cidade 95.9 A Historia Do Rock 2004
Various Artists
Ultimate Collection 2004 Sanctuary 4:39
Ars Longa Vita Brevis: A Compendium of Progressive Roc 1967-1974 2005
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 4:39
While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Vol. 3 2005
Various Artists
Best of Symfo Rock 2005
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Beyond the Beginning 2005 Sanctuary
Ultimate 16: Rock N Roll of the 70s 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 4:40
Classic Rock Presents Prog Rock 2006
Various Artists
Gut-Active 4:38
Manticore Vaults, Vol. 1 2006 Jvc Victor
Original Bootleg Series from the Manticore Vaults, Vol. 4 [Box Set] 2006 Castle Music / Castle Music Ltd. 3:08
No Image 2006 Sony BMG / Zounds Music 4:38
Pomp and Ceremony: Live 2006 Music Club Deluxe 5:03
Soft Rock Ballads [EMI] 2006
Various Artists
EMI/Virgin TV
The Essential Emerson, Lake & Palmer 2007 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 4:38
The Spirit of ELP 2007 JVC Compact Discs
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:38
From the Beginning [Box Set] 2007 Sony Import / Sony Music Distribution
The Ultimate Rock Ballads Collection [Time Life] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:36
The Ultimate Rock Ballads Collection: Burning Heart 2007
Various Artists
Rhino 4:36
Come and See the Show: The Best of Emerson, Lake & Palmer 2008 Razor & Tie 4:39
Island Life: 50 Years of Island Records 2009
Various Artists
Universal Portugal / Universal TV Campaign Division 4:38
Atlantic Records: The Time Capsule 2009
Various Artists
Atlantic 4:39
A Time and a Place 2010 Shout! Factory 3:05
High Voltage 2010 Castle Music / Sanctuary Records 4:39
Live at Nassau Coliseum '78 2011 Shout! Factory 3:21
Live at the Mar y Sol Festival '72 2011 Shout! Records 3:00
40th Anniversary Reunion Concert: High Voltage Fest [Video] 2011 In-Akustik 6:19
Live in California 1974 2012 Shout! Factory 2:54
Live at Montreux 1997 2013 Eagle Records
La Collection RTL Georges Lang, Vol. 3 2014
Various Artists
Warner Music 4:37
While My Guitar Gently Weeps [Universal] 2014
Various Artists
Universal Music TV
The Best of Emerson Lake & Palmer [Union Square] 2016 BMG / Union Square Music 4:37
No Image 2017 Victor Entertainment 4:42
Greatest Ever 70s Rock
Various Artists
Greatest Ever
Once Upon a Time Live In South America Rockbeat Records 4:38
The Old Grey Whistle Test: Prog Rock
Various Artists
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