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Musicians pay tribute to Deep Purple keyboardist, composer Jon Lord

The late keyboardist co-founded Deep Purple in 1968 with drummer Ian Paice in England, and stuck with it through seven of its eight distinctive lineups.

By Patrick Prince

In a band known as much for its revolving door of members as its hit songs, Jon Lord was one of the few constants of Deep Purple.

The keyboardist co-founded the band in 1968 with drummer Ian Paice in Hertford, England, and stuck with it through seven of its eight distinctive lineups until 2002, when he left to pursue a solo career. In 2012, Lord died from pancreatic cancer; he was 71.

While Lord was known for his work with Deep Purple, he also was an accomplished composer of classical music. Paice wanted to showcase Lord’s many tastes and talents in a tribute, so he teamed up with his wife, Jacky, founder of Sunflower Jam, a philanthropic U.K. concert series. The result? A four-hour concert at the Royal Albert Hall featuring Deep Purple as well as Rick Wakeman, Glenn Hughes, Paul Weller and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson.

John Lord The Composer

Eagle Rock Entertainment and earMusic have released “Celebrating Jon Lord” in multiple formats: Blu-ray ($39.99); a CD dedicated to “The Composer” ($13.98) and a 2-CD edition dedicated to “The Rock Legend” ($14.99). Royalties will benefit the Jon Lord Fellowship for cancer research. A super deluxe, import box set that includes two 7-inch vinyl records, a T-shirt and reproductions of the concert program and one of Lord’s musical scores also is available.

Jon Lord Rock Legend
Ian Paice of Deep Purple

Ian Paice of Deep Purple. Publicity photo.

GOLDMINE: For this special night, were most of the participating musicians friends with Jon?
IAN PAICE: Everybody who was on that stage had either worked with Jon or had a personal connection to him. With Rick Wakeman ... it’s an amazing thing. Rick and Jon had never met until 2011 at a Sunflower Jam, and they got on like a house on fire and really enjoyed each other’s company — same taste in music, same humor — and they were actually planning on doing an album together, Lord and Wakeman, but, of course, it was not to be. That’s how well they got on. And with most keyboard players, their knowledge of music is far more extensive than any other guys in a rock and roll band. It’s just the way it is. It’s the way they’re taught, the way they learn — and their memory is always incredible. You’ll ask them to play a piece of music, and it’s like watching a computer go to work. It’s like, “Oh you mean this one,” and they just dredge it up from that place in the back of their heads.

The Deep Purple Mark 3 lineup featured (from left) Ritchie Blackmore, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. Publicity photo.

The Deep Purple Mark 3 lineup featured (from left) Ritchie Blackmore, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. Publicity photo.

GM: It’s hard to believe that he never met Wakeman before, especially with such similar interests.
IP: You say it’s hard to believe, but when you consider the amount of touring and length of tours that happened back in the day, you were always on the road. And the only chance you would get to actually meet some of the other guys is if you had a night off and happened to be on the same continent, on the same night, in the same town. I can remember back in the day we would be in one ballroom and Zeppelin were in another, and we didn’t get to see each other because we were both working. Everybody was working all the time.

GM: Did any past Deep Purple members reach out, like Ritchie Blackmore, to get involved?
IP: If Ritchie wanted to be there, he could have been there. Ritchie chose to pay his respects in his own way. He composed a piece which he dedicated to Jon. And that’s fine. You know, he wanted to do it his way, and he did it with great respect. If he felt it was something he wanted to do by himself, no one can put anything against him on that. And I’m glad he did something.

I think David Coverdale was either in the studio or working. I know there was a reason he couldn’t get there. But again, if he’d been available, he’d be welcomed with open arms. Anybody who would devote their time, you have to just say, “Thank you.” And that’s the other problem with these events. You invite 50 to 60 artists and know you’re only gonna get six or seven of them. To try to get everyone when they are all available, it’s just impossible. So you just have to cover all the invitations and see who comes back to you. And we were thrilled that we had enough of Jon’s friends to make the concert work. Everything on the night came out very well, better than we could have expected, with the time limits we had to knock it into shape. And everybody who participated onstage and in the setup just did a job above and beyond the call. By the end of the concert, we knew that everybody, whether they were out front or onstage, had a really great night and felt that they had been a part of something pretty fantastic.

GM: The entire concert, it felt like everybody was on the same page throughout. It didn’t feel disconnected like concerts with many different artists can be.
IP: It wasn’t just the guys and ladies onstage. It was the whole audience. When you do a normal concert, the audience are strangers to each other. The common thing is the artist they’ve come to see. On that night, the audience weren’t strangers. They were all friends. And that was the atmosphere that was in the Hall. Everybody was there for the same reason: To celebrate and respect a man whose work they really enjoyed. So they were a gathering of friends rather than a gathering of strangers in an audience. The mood on the whole night was totally different than any other concert I had ever played. It was like a meeting of friends and because of that, it was extra special. GM