PASSINGS: Jon Lord, Bob Babbitt, Donald J. Sobol

Jon Lord

Deep Purple keyboard player

Jon Lord, 71, a British keyboardist for Deep Purple and Whitesnake, died in London on Monday of a pulmonary embolism after a battle with pancreatic cancer, said a statement on his official website.

Lord co-wrote some of Deep Purple’s most famous tunes, including “Smoke on the Water,” and later had a successful solo career after his retirement from the band in 2002.


The Leicester, England-born musician got his start playing piano, first taking classical music lessons before shifting to rock ‘n’ roll.

After moving to London to attend drama school, he joined blues band the Artwoods in 1964 and later toured with the Flowerpot Men — known for their hit “Let’s Go to San Francisco” — before joining Deep Purple in 1968.

Deep Purple — which at its peak featured Lord along with singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Glover — was one of the top hard-rock bands of the 1970s. Influenced by classical music, blues and jazz, Lord took his Hammond organ and distorted its sound to powerful effect on songs including “Hush,” “Highway Star,” “Lazy” and “Child in Time.”

The group sold more than 100 million albums before splitting in 1976.

Lord went on to play with hard rock group Whitesnake in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and, later, a re-formed Deep Purple.

Bob Babbitt

Motown studio musician, member of Funk Brothers

Bob Babbitt, 74, a prominent Motown studio musician and Funk Brothers member whose bass playing pounded through hits of the 1960s and ‘70s, died Monday in Nashville of complications from brain cancer, according to a statement from his manager, David Spero.


Well-known for decades among musicians, Babbitt laid down bass lines on the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion,” Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and “Inner City Blues” and Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” along with “The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Edwin Starr’s “War.”

After leaving Motown, Babbitt recorded with Bette Midler, Jim Croce, Bonnie Raitt and Frank Sinatra, among others.

In all, he played on more than 200 top 40 hits, including “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips and “Ready to Take a Chance Again” by Barry Manilow.

Like many studio musicians of the era, Babbitt wasn’t always publicly acknowledged for his work. He gained wider public recognition through the 2002 film about the Funk Brothers, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.”


Babbitt was born Robert Kreinar on Nov. 26, 1937, in Pittsburgh and moved to Detroit in the late 1950s. He had lived in Nashville for 26 years.

Donald J. Sobol

‘Encyclopedia Brown’ author

Donald J. Sobol, 87, author of the popular “Encyclopedia Brown” series of children’s mysteries, died July 11 in Miami of gastric lymphoma.


Sobol’s series featured amateur sleuth Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, who would unravel local mysteries with the help of his encyclopedic knowledge of facts great and small. The books, first published in the early 1960s, became staples in classrooms and libraries nationwide. They were translated into 12 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide. Sobol received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

The books also featured Brown’s friend and detective partner, the tough and athletic Sally Kimball.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the series. Sobol’s latest Encyclopedia Brown adventure, “Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme,” will be published in October, according to a release from Penguin.

Sobol was born Oct. 4, 1924, in New York City. He served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and graduated from Oberlin College. He later worked as a copywriter at the New York Sun, where he eventually became a reporter. His first Encyclopedia Brown book was rejected two dozen times before it was published, his son said.


In 1958, Sobol became a successful syndicated columnist with his “Two Minute Mystery” series, before publishing “Encyclopedia Brown Boy Detective” five years later.

-- Times wire reports