The rock world is mourning Jon Lord, the former keyboard player with British heavy rock pioneers Deep Purple. Lord, who has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 71, co-founded the group in 1968 and co-wrote many of its biggest hits, including "Smoke On the Water." Lord's Hammond B-3 organ was a key part of the band's style, which laid much of the groundwork for the metal bands that followed, notes the New York Times. Lord joined Whitesnake after Deep Purple split in 1976. The band reformed in 1984 and Lord stayed through many line-up changes before leaving in 2002.
Lord learned classical piano at a young age and won a scholarship to drama school, but chose rock and roll instead. He kept an interest in classical music and composed several large-scale pieces in Deep Purple's early days. Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman is among the many rockers paying tribute to Lord, saying he was a friend and a big fan. "We were going to write and record an album before he become ill," Wakeman says. "His contribution to music and to classic rock was immeasurable and I will miss him terribly."