Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Jon Lord, keyboard player and a founding member of Deep Purple, has passed away following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71.
If you've been following me for any considerable length of time, then you know that Deep Purple has been my favorite group since around my 14th birthday. I've seen them in concert numerous times, have most of their recordings (I would gladly say "all of their recordings", but there are loads and loads of them out there, so suffice to say I have everything they recorded in the studio and a very fair representation of their live output), and they were the group that truly awakened in me an affinity for hard rock and heavy metal. It was my great good fortune to stumble upon these most-talented practitioners upon my initial discovery of such stuff existing.
I had no real desire to be a musician prior to hearing their work. After listening to "Highway Star", there was little else I did want. I owe my many thousands of hours of pleasure, playing the bass and the keyboards and the guitar and the drums and singing and whatever else I've dabbled in, to Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, and Paice.
(Not to give short shrift to the other folks who have been part of the Purple line-up at various times, but it was that fivesome who inspired me.)
My first foray into rock, as a musician, came as a keyboard player and vocalist, and that was directly because of how Jon Lord blew me away with his organ soloing on the Machinehead album. To this day, my favorite keyboard solo is his from Highway Star.
(Ritchie Blackmore's guitar solo is always cited when folks start mentioning the best guitar solos in rock, but I contend that Lord's keyboard solo was just as magnificent and groundbreaking in its own way. Lord was utterly unafraid to explore the very edges of his instrument's sonic capabilities. He, like Hendrix for electric guitar, gave the organ an entirely unheard-before palette of sound. To this day, many casual listeners will hear Lord's chording on a Deep Purple recording and mistakenly take it for guitar.)
His virtuosity as a soloist, and as an improviser, was stunning. Watching him trade licks with latter-day DP guitarist Steve Morse was almost transcendental. Morse would reel off something lightning fast, Lord would immediately return it, Morse would come up with something new, and so on. They'd do this for a two minute stretch and it was mindbending stuff.
My musical heart is broken today.
Rest In Peace, Jon.