Jon Lord, former keyboard player with legends of rock music Deep Purple, has died aged 71. He had been receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer since last August and died at the London Clinic on Monday, surrounded by family. Lord was influenced by classical, blues and jazz but played his Hammond organ with a rock attitude and helped Deep Purple become pioneers of progressive and heavy rock.
Born in Leicester on 9 June 1941 to his parents Miriam and Reg, he studied classical piano from the age of five, and those influences are a recurring trademark in his work. Simultaneously, Lord absorbed the blues sounds that played a key part in his rock career, principally the raw sounds of the great American blues organists Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and “Brother” Jack McDuff (“Rock Candy”, as well as the stage showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis. He could have chosen a career as an actor after receiving a drama school scholarship, but started playing in pub bands including short-lived outfits with future Rolling Stones star Ronnie Wood and his brother Art. He also worked as a session musician and is thought to have played piano on The Kinks’ hit You Really Got Me. After meeting guitarist Ritchie Blackmore through another project, the first incarnation of Deep Purple was born.
Lord continued to compose classical works alongside the group’s output and, when they split in 1976, he joined other groups Whitesnake and Paice, Ashton and Lord. Deep Purple reformed in 1984 and resumed at the height of their commercial prowess, playing to tens of thousands of fans around the world. They sold a total of 150 million albums and Lord remained an ever-present amid numerous line-up changes until he left in 2002. He had signed to a classical music label and performed a concert to mark the 30th anniversary of Concerto for Group and Orchestra. He broke the news of his cancer diagnosis on his website last year, telling fans he would continue to write music as part of his therapy.
Thank you Jon for all those great works of music. Your millions of fans will always remember your keyboard prowess.