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Jon Lord dies aged 71

The Deep Purple founder, who co-wrote "Smoke On The Water", has died.

Jon Lord
Jon Lord (Photo: Getty)

His website simply carried the statement “Jon passes from Darkness to Light”, adding that the musician was “surrounded by his loving family” when he died, following an extended battle with pancreatic cancer.

Lord announced last year that he was “fighting cancer and will therefore be taking a break from performing while getting the treatment and cure”, but would continue writing music.

The Leicester-born keyboardist first took classical music lessons before turning towards movements in rock and roll. He studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London on a scholarship prior to joining cult blues band the Artwoods in 1964 and touring with The Flowerpot Men.
 
Lord founded Deep Purple in 1968, and over the following years started to draw a path towards the harsher sound of heavy metal. The 70s hard rock pioneers featured singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Glover. The British rockers achieved mass success in the early 1970s with classic albums including In Rock and Machine Head. The band went on to sell over 100 million albums, often featuring Lord’s propulsive, classically influenced Hammond B-3 organ, distorted via Marshall amplification. Lord co-wrote the legendary "Smoke On The Water" - a seminal moment in Deep Purple history.
 
Lord’s signature propensity for classical fusion manifested in Concerto for Group and Orchestra, performed by the band and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969.  Lord’s vision was ostensibly driven by a desire to dissolve the barriers of superior “academic” music. “We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven,” he told the NME in 1973. 
 
Deep Purple split in 1976. Lord then played with hard rock act Whitesnake before joining a reformed Deep Purple in 1984.