Lost another great
Jon Lord, the lion of Deep Purple and one of rock's premiere organists, has died at 71.
Lord had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last summer. According to his website, the musician, who was born in Leicester, died at the London Clinic of a pulminary embolism.
The musician, whose dexterity, dynamic phrasing and heavy, biting Hammond B-3 tone influenced two generations of rock organists, joined Deep Purple in 1968. He was one of the group's original members, and hung with Deep Purple until the group's initial disbandment in 1976. He was a co-writer of "Smoke on the Water," the band's signature tune, and one of the most identifiable songs in the classic rock canon. When Deep Purple got back together in 1984, Lord was in the organist's chair, and stayed there until his retirement from the band in 2002. Lord's place in the band was taken, amicably, by Don Airey.
Frequently charged with the invention or co-invention of heavy metal, Deep Purple has always been difficult to categorize — and it was Lord, along with daring guitarist Richie Blackmore who kept the group inventive. Classically trained, Lord was also interested in jazz, blues, and avant-garde music. He could rock as hard as anybody, but he also saw Deep Purple as a platform for his experiments. His "Concerto for Group and Orchestra," which had its debut performance in 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall, paired Deep Purple with London's Royal Philharmonic. It was one of the first attempts to harness the grandeur of classical music to the drive of rock, and it foreshadowed similar compositions by Rick Wakeman of Yes, Tony Banks of Genesis, and Keith Emerson of the Nice and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.
But while Emerson and Wakeman made radical moves away from rock's blues underpinnings, Lord remained a traditionalist. His solos could be aggressive, or classically inspired, or both — but no matter how heavy or ambitious they were, they always seemed to boogie and simmer. Lord also proved himself a master of the electric harpsichord; his sound on Deep Purple's "Space Truckin'" was frequently copied.
Lord appeared on 16 Deep Purple studio albums, and also lent his talents to sets by Whitesnake, David Gilmour, Cozy Powell, Nazareth, and others. He may have even played piano on the first Kinks album; nobody, including the Kinks, seems to know for sure.