Four years ago today (July 16, 2012), Jon Lord passed away at the age of 71. This giant keyboarder may be gone, but his music and enormous contributions to rock music undoubtedly are here to stay.
To me as a rock music fan and hobby musician, Jon was one of those guys who make me think, ‘Man, if I ever would learn their instrument, this is how I’d love to be able to play!’ John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Clarence Clemons (The E Street Band) do the same to me when it comes to the drums and the saxophone, respectively. Obviously, this list is not meant to be complete!
Jon Lord was born on June 9, 1941 in Leicester, England. His father, Reginald Lord, instilled Jon’s interest in music early on. When Jon was five years old, her started taking classical piano lessons. This provided an important foundation to his later professional work.
Jon is best known for being the keyboarder of Deep Purple. In fact, he was the first recruit to what was supposed to become a “supergroup” called Roundabout, a vision of former Searchers drummer Chris Curtis. He was followed by guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore. After Curtis left the band, Jon suggested bringing in his friend Nick Simper on bass, with whom he had played as backup in the Flower Pot Men – yep, that 60s British pop band known for their hit single, Let’s Go to San Francisco, though Jon and I believe also Nick did not participate in the recording of the song.Later on, Ian Paice joined Roundabout as drummer. Rod Evans was the singer of the band, which in April of 1968 changed its name to Deep Purple.
During the first three years of Deep Purple, Jon developed his signature organ sound, relying on a Hammond C3 and Marshall speakers. The combination created a growling, heavy and distorted sound that was simply made for rock! Jon also started fusing rock with classical music, which resulted in Concerto for Group and Orchestra. It was performed live by Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and released in late 1969/early 1970.
My most favorite work of Jon with Deep Purple is on Machine Head, the band’s sixth studio album released in March 1972. In particular, Jon shines on the songs Highway Star, Pictures of Home and Lazy, which all feature organ solos that are simply out of this world. Just the other day, I listened to the album in its entirety. Once again I realized it’s a true gem that is certainly also a highlight when it comes to Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar playing for the band! BTW, Pictures of Home also includes one of the coolest bass solos by Roger Glover.
While it’s probably fair to say that Jon is best remembered for his work with Deep Purple, he also played in English rock band The Artwoods, which like the Flower Pot Men predated Deep Purple; Pace Ashton Lord founded in 1977 after the first break-up of Deep Purple the previous year; and of course Whitesnake, formed in England in 1978 by former Deep Purple singer David Coverdale. Jon joined them during sessions for their first studio album Trouble and stayed until 1984 after the release of the band’s sixth studio album Slide It In. He plays the Hammond on the original version of the iconic Here I Go Again. After his departure from Whitesnake, Jon joined the reformed Deep Purple, reuniting him with Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, Ian Gillan and Ian Paice in the group’s so-called Mark IIb line-up .
Jon also released numerous, mostly orchestral/classical/instrumental albums that are not associated with the above bands, such as Gemini Suite (1971), Sarabande (1976), Durham Concerto (2008) and To Notice Such Things (2010).
Jon has received accolades from many rock musicians, including Metallica’s Lars Ulrich (drummer) and fellow keyboard giants Rick Wakeman (Yes) and Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), who died in March 2016 – an apparent suicide. In April 2016, Jon was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Deep Purple – a long overdue recognition.