Jon Lord died yesterday. He was 71.
Don’t know who Jon Lord was? Pity. But, then, you probably do, even if the name doesn’t evoke anything.
Jon Lord was the keyboardist for Deep Purple, the hard rock band that made music history in the early 1970s for their loudness, their energy, and their instrumental dexterity, especially Jon Lord’s who regularly threw in passages from Bach or Beethoven or Scarlatti in the middle of heavy, driving blues-based rock tunes.
Then there were the songs themselves—Hush, Wring That Neck, Kentucky Woman, Child In Time, Highway Star, Space Truckin’, My Woman From Tokyo…and of course Smoke On TheWater.
But then! Oh, surprise surprise, the man had musical chops that far exceeded what anyone might expect from a rocker. Concerto For Group and Orchestra was a full-blown orchestral suite with the London Philharmonic and Deep Purple. Later there was the Gemini Suite which was a similar idea. Other blends of rock instrumental and orchestral composition followed until, late in his career, Lord retired from the band to do nothing but compose and the results were amazing pieces of late Romantic symphonic work of deep complexity, exuberant melody, and a lush tonal palette. He was a composer’s composer.
I will do a longer appreciation of him later. For now, this is a place marker to note that this was one of the artists who set my aesthetic goals in music, someone I “wanted to be like when I grew up”—at least musically. He was an amazing talent. He left behind an incredible body of work. Go acquaint yourselves.