by Alissa Ordabai
– Senior Columnist –
Jon Lord: 1941 – 2012
Jon Lord took you outside of the mundane, the familiar, and the clichéd. Where rock guitar in the 60’s was busy constructing and establishing the essential, basic paradigms of the genre, his keyboard gave it extra dimension, lifted it outside of the rigid framework, and also gave it proper muso cred. When Lord was soloing on those early Deep Purple tracks, you could tell that here was someone who’s had classical sensibility, but still chose to dedicate himself to the emerging new genre. And his quick-witted, erudite solos always sounded a like a huge compliment to rock ’n roll. While the guitar has always been a party instrument, the keyboard was something different – with legacy stretching all the way to classical music, the baroque, and the romantic era.
Far from being a trophy classical musician supplying superficial tonal credibility to the music of the working class, Lord’s impact on rock was inspiring on a constructive, ground-breaking level. His playing wasn’t just a classy, exotic ornament to the band’s music – it was the indelible part of its essence. Here was someone who – despite his classical background – took full-heartedly to rock. His intelligent, thoughtful interaction with Blackmore’s leads on such gems as “Child in Time” and “Highway Star” opened the door to a larger vision of the band and of the genre, later to be explored by Yes, ELP, and other progressive bands. A vital connection between the classical heritage and rock ’n roll, Lord from day one has been a true rocker – spontaneous, authentic, and dedicated to taking Western music and Western culture to a new level.
He pursued his classical aspirations outside of the Deep Purple career starting from his first 1972 album Gemini Suite, and later on Sarabande in 1975 and Pictures from Within in 1997. But he will always be remembered for being the pioneer of hard rock – the cerebral counterpart to the visceral, the thoughtful elaboration complimenting the primal instinct, the classically trained musician who never looked down on rock music, but made it a multi-faceted, fascinating phenomenon with depth and vision which sustain it to this day.