King Crimson- Epitaph by Shuni Bickel - Illustrated by Barry Godber -
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King Crimson- Epitaph


Artwork: Barry Godber

  • Joined Apr 2021
  • Published Books 2

On October 10th 1969, King Crimsons first album- “In The Court Of The Crimson King” got released and caused a shockwave through music of the era, helping to establish the new genre that will ultimatley be known as progressive rock.

The album is full of different sounds and over-the-top musical pieces- and in this book i chose to focus on Epitaph- not the most known song from this masterpiece, but by my opinion the most touching one by far.

TOP FIVE: King Crimson Albums | REPLICANT EARS


Some Backround

King Crimson were founded in 1968 in London by Robert Fripp (guitar) and Michael Giles (drums). Fripp started playing the guitar at the age of 11, and once told the BBC that he knew almost immediately that this guitar will be his life. By the age of 15 he listened mainly to jazz, and when he was at college he heared the ending of A Day In The Life by the beatles, sending him to listen to the full album of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, as well as Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Expirienced. Since he also listened to a lot of classical music at that time, he wished to merge those sounds somehow. After playing with Giles in another band, they formed King Crimson with Greg Lake on the bass and vocals, Ian mcDonald on a variety of instruments- mellotron being amongst them and Peter Sinfield as the lyricist.



Crimson have preformed at “The Stones At The Park” free show at Hyde Park on July 5th 1969, months before even relising their debut album. Even so, their revolutionary music made a strong impression on the people at the festival and their album was highly anticipated afterwards. The album was highly praised and set the bar for a progressive rock album- it is even told that the band Genesis hung the album in their studio to remind themself of what standard to aspire to.
The content of the album is full of gloomy, dark lyrics and hard music- reflecting the general state of mind of the band- looking at the end of an era, staring forward into the cold-war.


The song is widely utilyzing the Mellotron, an electro- mechanical instrument developed in Birmingham at 1963, which is similar to the keyboard.  The instrument is played by pressing its keys, each of which pushes a length of magnetic tape against a capstan, which pulls it across a playback head. The tape stored different sounds of different instruments, making it a very usefull instrument which can produce many diverse, different sounds.



The Lyrics

The song is sung from the perspective of the narrator, seeing a loss of morals, a world ruled by war and fear, unable to believe there could be a way out of the horrible situation mankind put itself into.
At the chorus he says that if, somehow, we will “make it”- stay alive after all the wars, we could laugh about it since it was not really necesarry, but he doesn’t believe it’ll happen- fearing “tommorow he’ll be crying”.


The man on the album cover, representing the “21st century schizoid man” was drawn after Barry Godber listened to the songs of the album, and i believe it might be that “Epitaph” is from the schizoid man’s point of view.

King Crimson – 21st Century Schizoid Man (Radio Version) Lyrics | MatchLyric


Full lyrics- written by Peter Sinfield

Verse 1
The wall on which the prophets wrote
Is cracking at the seams.
Upon the instruments if death
The sunlight brightly gleams.
When every man is torn apart
With nightmares and with dreams,
Will no one lay the laurel wreath
As silence drowns the screams.
Confusion will be my epitaph.
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back
And laugh.
But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying.
Verse 2
Between the iron gates of fate,
The seeds of time were sown,
And watered by the deeds of those
Who know and who are known;
Knowledge is a deadly friend
When no one sets the rules.
The fate of all mankind I see
Is in the hands of fools.
Confusion will be my epitaph.
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back
And laugh.
But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying…

Impact On Music Nowadays

Since King Crimsons first album was that ground breaking, it still has a lot of impact on the evolution of musicat that time and till these days. A true proof of the relevancy of their music is the fact that Hip-Hop artists today still use their music as a basis for their own creations:

Those are two examples of rappers sampeling different songs from the album, with the originals tracks as refference.

Kanye West’s Power samples 21st Century Schizoid Man:



And Pahroahe Monch’s The Grand Illusion (Circa 1973) samples In The Court Of The Crimson King:



In conclusion, this monument of an album is a masterpice in general and had a lot of influence over the years, but when something is so iconic and has so many direct references, sometimes some of the pretty details of it slips away. I think that the song Epitaph is a jem from this album, that yet has been discovered by a lot of people who only know the “big hits” from this album; and as great as they truely are, I believe this piece deserve justice, for its beautiful, grave reflection of society of that time from the eyes of these geniuses.

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