Jon Lord, Deep Purple keyboardist and founder, dead at 71

Jon Lord, keyboardist and co-founder of British rock group Deep Purple, has died in a London hospital aged 71, his official website said on Monday.

The website stated that the Leicester, England-born musician suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism in London after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

“Jon passed from Darkness to Light,” the statement added.

Lord co-wrote some of Deep Purple’s most famous tunes, including “Smoke on the Water,” and later had a successful solo career following his retirement from the band in 2002. The statement posted on Lord’s website said he died “surrounded by his loving family.”

Earlier this month, Lord cancelled a performance of his Durham Concerto in Germany. At the time, his website assured fans that it was “not a matter for concern, but it is a continuation of his regular treatment that has just taken longer than anticipated.”

Lord got his musical start playing piano, first taking classical music lessons before shifting to rock and roll.

After moving to London to attend drama school, he joined blues band the Artwoods in 1964 and later toured with The Flowerpot Men – known for their hit “Let’s Go To San Francisco” – before joining Deep Purple in 1968.

Deep Purple – which featured Lord along with singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Glover – was one of the top hard rock bands of the ’70s. Influenced by classical, blues and jazz, Lord took his Hammond organ and distorted its sound to powerful effect on songs including “Highway Star” and “Lazy” to “Child in Time.”

The group was once listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s loudest band and went on to sell more than 100 million albums before splitting in 1976.

Lord went on to play with hard rock group Whitesnake in the late 1970s and early 1980s and in 1985 joined a re-formed Deep Purple, remaining consistent amid numerous line-up changes until he finally left in 2002.

Still composing, he had signed to a classical music label and performed a concert to mark the 30th anniversary of Concerto for Group and Orchestra.

“Thirty years later the piece came back and changed my life again… It gave me the courage to step outside and carve a career for myself outside the band,” he told an interviewer.

He broke the news of his cancer diagnosis on his website last year, telling fans he would continue to write music as part of his therapy.

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