Jon Lord, the inspired keyboard player and composer who founded the trailblazing heavy metal band Deep Purple, is dead. The British musician succumbed to pancreatic cancer in London today; he was 71. Lord's website currently states, "Jon passes from Darkness to Light" and notes that he "was surrounded by his loving family." Lord founded Deep Purple in 1968, and co-wrote many of the songs, including their hit "Smoke on the Water." Though the group broke up in 1976, it reformed in the mid-80s, and ultimately sold more than 100 million albums.

Lord also joined Deep Purple's David Coverdale in Whitesnake for several years, starting in 1978, adding what he described as a "halo" to the band's blues-rock sound. According to Lord's website, he was "best known for his Orchestral work Concerto for Group & Orchestra first performed at Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 and conducted by the renowned Malcolm Arnold." Here's video of Deep Purple live in NYC in 1973:

Lord's influence is far reaching—Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello tweeted earlier today, "RIP the great Jon Lord, Deep Purple's cornerstone/keyboardist. So many great great songs and that incredible SOUND of his! Thankyou." And guitarist Slash writes, "Sad day in Rock & Roll; Jon Lord has passed on. One of the biggest, baddest, heaviest sounds in Heavy Metal. One if a kind. RIP. iiii]; )'"

Former Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman, a friend of Lord's, tells BBC, "We were going to write and record an album before he become ill. His contribution to music and to classic rock was immeasurable and I will miss him terribly."