Happy Birthday: Jon Lord of Deep Purple

Monday, June 9, 2014
Happy Birthday: Jon Lord of Deep Purple

Although it’s been almost two years now since he left us, today would’ve been the 73rd birthday of Jon Lord, a man who really knew his way around a Hammond C3 organ, as he proved repeatedly throughout his many years as a member of Deep Purple.

Born in Leicester, England in 1941, Lord was encouraged in his musical endeavors from a young age, starting classical piano studies when he was only five years old and later participating in the school choir. Although his proper musical studies were in more of a classical vein, he was also a fan of the blues as well as early rock ‘n’ roll, with Buddy Holly’s performance at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall in March 1958 proving to be a decidedly formative moment.

Lord played around London from1960 onward, serving as a member of various bands at various times, including the Bill Ashton Combo, Red Bludd’s Bluesicians, and the Art Wood Combo, while also playing keyboards as a session musician, most notably on the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” In time, the Art Wood Combo evolved into the Artwood, then into the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre before breaking up, at which point Lord founded the Santa Barbara Machine Head with Ronnie Wood. The band might not have taken off, but they weren’t entirely forgotten: after all, the second half of their name eventually ended up as the title of an album by Lord’s next band, specifically the one featuring their signature hit.

Lord was a part of Deep Purple from the beginning, stuck with them ‘til they called it quits after 1975’s Come Taste the Band, and then came back for the Polydor years (1984-1987), the BMG years (1990-1993), and the one-off albums on Phantom Records (1996’s Purpendicular) and CMC International (1998’s Abandon). When he finally departed in 2002, it was so utterly amicable that he actually left his Hammond organ to his replacement, Don Airey, but there’s still some argument among purists as to whether or not a Deep Purple without Jon Lord truly is Deep Purple, given that his organ playing was as much a part of that band’s sound as any other element.

Then again, Lord was certainly about more than just Deep Purple: he was also a key part of Whitesnake through 1983’s Slide It In album, he released several solo efforts, and he popped on songs by Nazareth, David Gilmour, George Harrison, and Ride, among many others. To honor his birthday, though, it’s Deep Purple’s catalog that we’ve decided to dive into, partly just because it’s pretty darned great, but also because it’s most people’s first reference point to his work…and, all things considered, it’s not a bad one to have.