Yesterday, July 16, 2012, the world lost not one, but two, music pioneers. Jon Lord, keyboardist/composer best known for his work with Deep Purple, passed away at the age of 71 from a pulmonary embolism stemming from pancreatic cancer. Also, “Queen of Country” Kitty Wells died in Nashville of complications from a stroke. She was 92.
Jon Lord was an original member of hard rock pioneer band Deep Purple, and co-wrote many of the bands signature songs (including the iconic “Smoke on the Water”). Lord was perhaps best known for his dual affinity for rock and classical music, often infusing baroque and classical elements into his songs. After Deep Purple disbanded, Lord played keys for metal band Whitesnake until 1984, when Deep Purple re-formed. In addition to his career in rock, Lord was also a noted composer; his Durham Concerto was to be performed this month in Germany, but was cancelled for health reasons.
Kitty Wells (born in 1919 as Ellen Muriel Deason) was a trailblazer in the fullest sense of the word. Her 1952 country hit “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” broke the glass ceiling for women in country, making Wells the first female to top the American country music charts. She continued to chart well into the 1960s, paving the way for a long line of female country superstars from Loretta Lynn to Dolly Parton to Reba to Taylor Swift. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976, and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1991. Wells continued to perform well into her 70’s until finally retiring in 2000. Her husband of 70-plus years, country singer Johnny Wright, passed away just last year at the age of 97.
Both of these music legends helped to shape the future of their respective genres, and both will be sorely missed.