Former DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (pictured below) has released the following statement regarding the passing of former PURPLE keyboardist Jon Lord:"Jon was not only a great musician, he was my favorite dinner companion. "We are all deeply saddened. We knew he was sick but the word was that he was recovering and doing much better. This news came as a complete shock. "Without Jon there would be no DEEP PURPLE. He lives on in our hearts and memories." Jon Lord died on Monday (July 16) at age 71 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Lord, who was known for his keyboard virtuosity and his reinvention of the Hammond B-3 organ sound, co-wrote such PURPLE classics as "Smoke On The Water" and "Child In Time", among others. Lord and drummer Ian Paice were the only original members to last through the band's initial run from 1968 to 1976. He was on board for their 1984 reunion and stayed on through to his 2002 retirement from the band, after which he's worked primarily in the classical field. Over the course of his career, Lord also worked with the ARTWOODS, FLOWER POT MEN, PAICE, ASHTON AND LORD, WHITESNAKE and good friend and neighbor, George Harrison.