The legendary Deep Purple keyboardist has sadly died
Jon sadly passed away after suffering from a fatal pulmonary embolism today, Monday 16th July at the London Clinic, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jon was surrounded by his loving family.
Jon Lord, the legendary keyboard player with Deep Purple co-wrote many of the bands legendary songs including Smoke On The Water and played with many bands and musicians throughout his career.
Best known for his Orchestral work Concerto for Group & Orchestra first performed at Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 and conducted by the renowned Malcolm Arnold, a feat repeated in 1999 when it was again performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra and Deep Purple.
Jon’s solo work was universally acclaimed when he eventually retired from Deep Purple in 2002.
Jon Lord 9 June 1941 - 16 July 2012
One of the greatest and most important keyboard players of all time, Jon Lord was a prodigiously inventive musician who brought a multitude of influences to the rock music genre.
Born in Leicester on 9 June 1941 he studied classical piano from the age of five and over time he absorbed all manner of genres from classical to Medieval to popular music, and it was his love of jazz & blues organ players such as Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and "Brother" Jack McDuff who would ultimately lead him to Deep Purple.
After moving to London at the turn of the 60s to pursue a career as an actor, Lord found work as a session musician, playing in clubs and studios around the city.
He also played in a handful of bands such as Red Bludd's Bluesicians (featuring Ronnie Wood's older brother Art) and The Artwoods, who had a hit single with "I Take What I Want" in 1966.
In 1967 Lord met businessman Tony Edwards, who was looking to invest in the music business, and following a meeting with Ritchie Blackmore and the disintegration of Lord's then band The Flower Pot Men the initial line-up of Deep Purple (after briefly being called Roundabout) was formed.
In May 1968 Lord & Blackmore, plus Rod Evans, Ian Paice and Nick Simper moved into Pye Studios in London to record their debut album, Shades Of Deep Purple.
The group had success in North America with a cover of Joe South's "Hush", and by September 1968, the song had reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and number 2 on the Canadian RPM charts, pushing the Shades LP up to #24 on Billboard's pop album charts. The following month, Deep Purple was booked to support Cream on their Goodbye tour.
The band's second album, The Book of Taliesyn (including a cover of Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman"), was released in North America to coincide with the tour, reaching number 38 on the Billboard charts and number 21 on the RPM charts, although it would not be released in the UK until the following year.
Early 1969 saw Deep Purple record their third album, simply titled Deep Purple. The album contained strings and woodwind on one track ("April"), showcasing Lord's classical antecedents such as Bach and Rimsky-Korsakov, and several other influences were in evidence, notably Vanilla Fudge. This would be the last recording by the original line-up.
Deep Purple's troubled North American record label, Tetragrammaton, delayed production of the Deep Purple album until after the band's 1969 American tour ended. This, as well as lackluster promotion by the nearly-broke label, caused the album to sell poorly, finishing well out of the Billboard Top 100. Soon after the third album's eventual release, Tetragrammaton went out of business, leaving the band with no money and an uncertain future. (Tetragrammaton's assets were assumed by Warner Bros. Records, who would release Deep Purple's records in the US throughout the 1970s.) During the 1969 American tour, Lord and Blackmore met with Paice to discuss their desire to take the band in a heavier direction. Feeling that Evans and Simper would not fit well with a heavy rock style, both were replaced that summer. Paice stated, "A change had to come. If they hadn't left, the band would have totally disintegrated."
The band hunted down singer Ian Gillan from Episode Six, a band that had released several singles in the UK without achieving their big break for commercial success. They also poached bassist Roger Glover from Episode 6 and thus was created the classic Mk.II of Deep Purple.
The band gained some much-needed publicity in September, 1969, with a masterstroke from Jon Lord.
The Concerto for Group and Orchestra was a three-movement epic composed by Lord as a solo project and performed by the band at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Malcolm Arnold. This live album became their first album with any kind of chart success in the UK.
Classical dalliance over, Purple began work on In Rock, released by their new label EMI in 1970 and now recognised as one of hard rock's key early works. Lord and Blackmore competed to out-dazzle each other, often in classical-style, midsection 'call and answer' improvisation (on tracks like "Speed King"), something they employed to great effect live. Similarly, "Child in Time" features Lord's playing to maximum tonal effect. Lord's experimental solo on "Hard Lovin' Man" (complete with police-siren interpolation) on the album was one of his personal favourites among his Deep Purple studio performances.
Deep Purple released an amazing sequence of albums between 1971's Fireball and 1975's Come Taste the Band which is almost unrivalled in quality by any other band. Gillan and Glover left in 1973 and Blackmore in 1975, and the band disintegrated in 1976.
The highlights of Lord's Purple work in the period include the 1972 album Machine Head (featuring his rhythmic underpinnings on "Smoke on the Water" and "Space Truckin'", plus the organ solos on "Highway Star" and "Lazy"), the sonic bombast of the Made in Japan live album (1972), an extended, effect-laden solo on "Rat Bat Blue" from the Who Do We Think We Are album (1973), and his overall playing on the Burn album from 1974.
Jon teamed up with his Purple bandmate David Coverdale in Whitesnake from 1978-1984, giving a little blues soul to the sexually charged songs that Coverdale was writing at the time. He became increasingly frustrated at the "hired hand" image that he had acquired and eventually left the band to reform the Deep Purple MkII line-up in '84.
Lord's re-emergence with Deep Purple in 1984 resulted in huge audiences for the reformed Mk II line-up, including 1985's second largest grossing tour in the US and an appearance in front of 70,000 rain-soaked fans headlining Knebworth on 22 June 1985, all to support the Perfect Strangers album.
Playing with a rejuvenated Mk. II Purple line-up (including spells at a health farm to get the band including Lord into shape) and being onstage and in the studio with Blackmore, gave Lord the chance to push himself once again. His 'rubato' classical opening sequence to the album's opener, "Knocking at Your Back Door" (complete with F-Minor to G polychordal harmony sequence), gave Lord the chance to do his most powerful work for years, including the song "Perfect Strangers". Further Deep Purple albums followed, often of varying quality, and by the late-1990s, Lord was clearly keen to explore other musical avenues and he retired from Deep Purple for good in 2002.
In recent years Lord has been able to flex his musical muscles and indulge himself in whatever musical genre he felt compelled to play. As well as a handful of solo classical albums, he has worked with Jimmy Barnes and George Harrison, and had recently worked with Ian Gillan and Tony Iommi on the WhoCares project. He has also performed live with orchestras over the years and had been scheduled to perform in Germany just a couple of weeks ago. He had also been hard at work on a new recording of Concerto For Group And Orchestra, which had been due to feature our very own Joe Bonamassa.
There is no doubt that Jon will be forever regarded as one of the most pioneering musicians to have ever lived. Fans of rock music owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for the body of work he has left behind.