Jon Lord dies aged 71

17 July 2012, 09:32 | Updated: 6 June 2014, 17:34

Composer and keyboard player Jon Lord, famous for his classical compositions and his role in rock band Deep Purple, has died aged 71.

Composer and pianist Jon Lord has died aged 71. He suffered a heart attack yesterday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer and died at the London Clinic, surrounded by his family.

Born in Leicester, Lord's best-known classical work was his Durham Concerto, which charted at number 87 in this year's Classic FM Hall of Fame. But he will also be forever loved for founding the prog-rock band Deep Purple and co-writing their most famous song, Smoke On The Water.

A musician from a young age, Lord started playing the piano in his family home and took classical music lessons before turning to jazz and rock 'n' roll. After moving to London to take up a place at drama school aged 19, he began playing the piano in pubs and bars.

In 1964 he joined blues band the Artwoods - formed by Ronnie Wood's brother Art - but it was never commercially successful and the band split up. Lord then went on tour with The Flowerpot Men, before establishing Deep Purple in 1968.

Deep Purple sold more than 100 million albums before Lord’s retirement from the band in 2002. Throughout his time with the group, he frequently combined rock and classical music, and even performed at the Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969, conducted by Malcolm Arnold.

After leaving the band, Lord spent time composing orchestral works, choral and chamber ensemble pieces, as well as pieces for solo piano. He composed the Hall of Fame favourite, Durham Concerto, in 2007, after a commission from Durham University as part of their 175th anniversary.

The six-movement piece is inspired by celebrated historic sites in the city, and features music for Hammond organ – a favourite instrument of Jon’s. Released in 2008, the album was the highest new entry in Classic FM's 2009 Hall of Fame.

A statement in his website says Jon passes from Darkness to Light.