King Crimson are a progressive rock band formed in 1968 in London, England. They exerted a strong influence on the early 1970s progressive rock movement and continue to inspire subsequent generations of artists across multiple genres. Robert Fripp, the sole remaining founding member, has acted as the primary composer and a driving creative force throughout the band's history. Although he is often viewed as the band's leader, Fripp himself shuns this label. He has been quoted as seeing the group more as "a way of doing things", and his role in the group a form of "quality control". King Crimson has earned a large cult following. They were ranked No. 87 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. In 1969, the original King Crimson influenced and altered the approach of contemporaries such as Yes and Genesis. King Crimson has consistently drawn inspiration from a wide variety of music over the years, keeping their work fresh by incorporating elements of Classical music, jazz, folk, heavy metal, gamelan, industrial, Electronic, experimental music, and new wave.
Founded by Fripp, Michael Giles, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald and lyricist Peter Sinfield, the band initially focused on a dramatic, doom-laden sound rich with layers of Mellotron strings, flute, and Lake's distinctively powerful vocals. Their debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King (1969), remains their most commercially successful and influential release, with a potent mixture of jazz, classical and experimental music. Following the sudden simultaneous departure of McDonald and Giles, Fripp and Sinfield assumed direction of the group for In the Wake of Poseidon (1970), Lizard (1970), and Islands (1971). In 1972, Fripp changed the group's instrumentation and approach, drawing inspiration from European free improvisation, and developing ever more complex compositions. They reached what some saw as a creative peak on Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973), Starless and Bible Black (1974), and Red (1974). Fripp disbanded this group in 1974.
In 1981, Crimson reformed with another dramatic change in musical direction. For the first time a second guitarist (in the person of Adrian Belew, who also sang his own lyrics) was included. This band blended influences drawn from African music, gamelan, post-punk and New York minimalism. This group lasted three years, resulting in the trio of albums Discipline (1981), Beat (1982) and Three of a Perfect Pair (1984). Following a decade-long hiatus, Fripp revived the group as a sextet in 1994. This "double trio" participated in another three-year cycle of activity that included the release of a new studio album, Thrak (1995), and multiple concert recordings. There was a hiatus between 1997 to 2000. Four of the previous sextet reunited in 2000 as a more industrial-oriented King Crimson, releasing The Construkction of Light (2000) and The Power to Believe (2003). After a five year hiatus, the group expanded (in the person of new second drummer Gavin Harrison) for a 2008 tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of their 1968 formation.
Following another hiatus (2009–2012), during which Fripp was thought to be retired from touring, King Crimson came together again in 2013; this time as a septet (and, later, octet) with an unusual three-drumkit frontline, and new second guitarist and singer Jakko Jakszyk. This version of King Crimson continued to tour from 2014 to 2021, and released multiple live albums to critical acclaim, rearranging and reinterpreting music from across the band's entire 50-year career for the first time.
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