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Deep Purple's Jon Lord dies at 71

Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord in March 2009.
Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord in March 2009.Peter Kollanyi / EPA

Deep Purple rocker Jon Lord died of a pulmonary embolism on Monday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, according to his official website. He was 71 years old.

The British musician worked with a variety of bands including Whitesnake; Paice, Ashton and Lord; The Artwoods and Flowerpot Men, but he is best known for his classically-inspired keyboard playing in Deep Purple and for co-writing their infinitely hummable tune, “Smoke on the Water.”

Born in Leicester, England, he moved to London to go to drama school at age 19 and quickly began playing small shows in public houses and bars. He joined the blues band The Artwoods who never saw commercial success, so he toured with the Flowerpot Men, then was a founding member of Deep Purple in 1968. 

Deep Purple sold more than 100 million albums, many of which featured Lord’s trademark keyboard and organ riffs, such as in “Child of Our Time.” Lord was a key part of the band until he retired from it in 2002.

His website states that he was “surrounded by his loving family” when he died in London, writing “Jon passes from Darkness to Light.”

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