Deep Purple Keyboardist Jon Lord Dead at 71

Co-wrote many of their biggest hits, including 'Smoke on the Water'

jon lord deep purple
Fin Costello/Redferns
Jon Lord of Deep Purple in the 1970s.
By |

Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord, who played with the pioneering hard rock band from their formation in 1968 through his retirement in 2002, died in London today from a pulmonary embolism after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71.

Lord co-founded Deep Purple in 1968 and co-wrote many of their biggest hits, including "Smoke on the Water," "Black Night" and "Strange Kind of Woman." The band initially had a softer sound, scoring hits with covers of Billy Joe Royal's "Hush" and Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman" in 1968.  The next year they recuited new singer Ian Gillan and quickly developed their signature hard rock sound on classic albums like Machine Head and Fireball. During this time the group regularly changed members, with Lord being one of the few constants.

Two years after the group split in 1976, Lord began a six-year stint in Whitesnake. He also guested on albums with some of the biggest names in rock, including George Harrison and David Gilmour. He rejoined Deep Purple when they reformed in 1984, and stayed with the group in 2002.