Legendary keyboardist and songwriter Jon Lord died yesterday at the age of 71 of a pulmonary embolism in the wake of ongoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.
A classically trained pianist, Lord’s attention turned to rock and roll and blues in the 1960s, notably as a member of The Flowerpot Men of “Let’s Go to San Francisco” fame and later in 1968 as a member of Deep Purple.
After entering the spotlight in 1968 with their top ten cover of Joe South’s “Hush” featuring Lord’s slithery organ work, Deep Purple slowly emerged into one of the hardest-rocking and best-selling bands in the world with album sales exceeding 100 million copies worldwide.
Perhaps best-known as the organist behind the rock staple “Smoke on the Water,” Lord’s musical background was an ideal match for like-minded guitar virtuoso and songwriting partner Ritchie Blackmore. Their creations often featured blistering rock jams with structured classical roots that highlighted Lord’s distinctively distorted array of keyboards.
A true innovator in the world of rock and roll, highlights of Lord’s work from this era include “Strange Kind of Woman,” “Lazy,” "Space Truckin,” “Child in Time” and “Woman from Tokyo.”
Following years of tremendous success and excess with Deep Purple, Lord joined the then-fledgling Whitesnake in 1978, providing a foundation for two British guitar heroes, Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody.
In 1984, after six Purple-influenced albums with Whitesnake and two solo albums that harkened back to his roots, Lord left to join the reformed Deep Purple MK II. This incarnation of the band enjoyed a revival that peaked with 1985’s Perfect Strangers and lasted through 1993’s The Battle Rages On. Blackmore left the band mid-tour in 1993 while Lord hung on for five more years, finally leaving after the release of Abandon in 1998.
Lord’s later years saw him maturing as a musician and songwriter, clearly evident on both Pictured Within and Beyond the Notes, two albums that gave him the freedom to shape and deliver music reflective of his place in life.
Those of us old enough to recall the heyday of Deep Purple in the 1970s realize firsthand what a tremendous talent Lord was and appreciate the contributions he has made to the world of rock and roll. A true Child in Time, Lord will be missed yet remembered forever.