For any self-respecting Rock fan and indeed any lover of music, the news that the founding member of the pioneering British band Deep Purple, Jon Lord, has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, will come as a huge blow and a loss to the arts worldwide.
Jon Lord was born in Leicester on June 9th 1941 and by the end of the 1960’s was at the forefront of the next British music explosion with Deep Purple. There can’t be many aspiring musicians that haven’t learned the distinctive bass chord that haunts the band’s classic song Smoke on the Water. There can’t be that many people in the world that haven’t heard that song and not sought out the back catalogue to hear more and it’s testament to the keyboard skills of Jon Lord, his insight into the world of music, that Deep Purple and in later times Whitesnake and then latterly into the world of classical music is what gives these bands and Jon himself a platform from which he will be never be removed or side lined.
The rock world may have been what made Jon Lord famous and incredibly well respected but he initially studied classical piano from a very young age and as his skill developed his love of piano maestros such as Jerry Lewis and jazz organists like Jimmy Smith made him look at his music in a different way.
After he moved to London in 1959 he played in various Jazz and pop bands until the almost fateful moment where Deep Purple became a real household name with the addition of their second vocalist, Ian Gillan, to the group.
Despite line-up changes, Jon Lord stayed with the band until the first major split and from there he went onto be the organ-piano player in yet another great British iconic rock band, Whitesnake. He joined Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody, Ian Paice (his great friend from Deep Purple), Neil Murray and the young vocal talent of David Coverdale. It was to be a marriage made in heaven, albeit a brief encounter. Nowhere is his influence more keenly felt during this period than on the Saints and Sinners album from 1982 and especially on the track Here I go Again.
The haunting, powerful beginning of Jon Lord’s organ playing gave the band the sound that defined them until they changed tack with David Coverdale going for a younger sound to appeal to the American markets. With that the second formation of Deep Purple beckoned and the band struck gold in 1984 with the album Perfect Strangers. On that the back of the phenomenal sales of the band’s release they headlined the Knebworth Festival the following year. Jon finally retired from Deep Purple in 2002, leaving only drummer Ian Paice as the only original member in the band.
Jon Lord was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011 and sadly suffered a pulmonary embolism on July 16th. Perhaps most telling of all is the line at the bottom of his website. “Jon passes from Darkness to Light.” Without doubt this is one musician who will be very sadly missed.
Jonathon Douglas Lord: Born June 9th 1941. Died July 16th 2012. Jon Lord is survived by his wife Vicky and two daughters.
Ian D. Hall