Deep Purple star Jon Lord has died aged 71.

The keyboard player suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism - a blockage of the main artery of the lung caused by a moving blood clot - and passed away in London today (16.07.12) ''surrounded by his loving family''.

A statement posted on his official website read: ''It is with deep sadness we announce the passing of Jon Lord, who suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism today, Monday 16th July at the London Clinic, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jon was surrounded by his loving family ... Jon passes from Darkness to Light.

Jon founded the famous British hard rock band - which featured guitarist Ritchie Blackmore - and was responsible for co-writing their most famous song 'Smoke On The Water'.

He also penned many of their other big hits, including 'Black Night' and 'Fireball', and wrote the pioneering 'Concerto for Group and Orchestra' which the band performed with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London's Royal Albert Hall in September 1969.

The concerto is considered the first ever live collaboration between a rock band and a complete orchestra.

Deep Purple performed the piece again at the same venue 30 years later in 1999.

The group - which was fronted by Ian Gillan at the height of their success - is widely considered to be one of the creators of The Heavy metal genre along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin in the 1970s and they sold 100 million albums worldwide.

Last year, Lord told his fans he was ''fighting cancer and will therefore be taking a break from performing while getting the treatment and cure ... I shall of course be continuing to write music - in my world it just has to be part of the therapy.''

He is survived by his wife Vickie Lord and his two daughters Amy, his child with Vickie, and Sara - who he had with his first spouse Judith Feldman, who he was married to from 1969 to 1981.