Jon Lord, Deep Purple Keyboardist, Dies Aged 71

Jon Lord, Deep Purple founder and keyboardist, has passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71.

Lord, who many view as the driving force behind Deep Purple, suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism Monday. He had been suffering from cancer for the past year.

Jon Lord began piano and classic music lessons at an early age, and from the age of 19 attended drama school on a scholarship. There, he developed a love for jazz, R&B and the blues, just some of the musical genres which would eventually influence his own iconic, eclectic output.

A keen and talented organist, Lord and his Hammond skills helped Deep Purple become genuine pioneers of progressive and heavy rock at the beginning of the 1970s. Albums such as Deep Purple in Rock, Shades of Deep Purple and Machine Head placed the group at the forefront of the rock and prog scene, alongside the likes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

The group split in 1976, but reformed in 1984. The band’s line-up has famously seen numerous changes over the years, but Lord was a regular fixture until he left in 2002.

In 2011, Jon Lord received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Leicester. It was in February 2012 that Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice revealed his former band-mate had been diagnosed with cancer, though Paice noted that the illness had been detected in its early stages. Lord travelled to Israel for treatment, and by all accounts expected to working again in April or May. Sadly, it was not to be.

Jon Lord leaves a vast and varied musical legacy, and his influence on the heavy metal genre is unquestionable. Writing on his official site, Black Sabbath Geezer Butler reflected on Lord’s passing:

Very sad to hear of Jon’s death, following his battle with the demon cancer. One of the great musicians of my generation. Tony Iommi recently worked with Jon, and said what a lovely bloke he was. I met him a few times, but never got to work with him. Blessings.

Meanwhile, many, many artists paid tribute on Twitter, including Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello:

The Kinks:

Slash:

And Joe Bonamassa:

RIP, Jon Lord.