In and out of Deep Purple over the years, Gillian sung in some of the band’s best songs including “Smoke On The Water”
Deep Purple’s eternal lead singer Ian Gillian turns 74
It’s a fact, that Ian Gillian will always be regarded as Deep Purple’s eternal lead singer, despite not being a founding member of the band and being replaced twice. But that, doesn’t changes that Deep Purple’s most successful and memorable period, was during the years Gillian fronted the band. Ian Gillian was born in London, England on August 19, 1945 and joined Deep Purple in 1969, replacing original lead singer Rod Evans one year after the band’s debut album. Gillian’s powerful vocals, together with his charisma, quickly caught the eye of worldwide music fans, as he was perfect for the new and rising Hard Rock/Heavy Metal music scene. Between 1970 until his first departure from Deep Purple in 1973, the band reached the pinnacle of their success with a string of four hit albums that remain absolute Hard Rock classics, “Deep Purple in Rock” 1970, “Fireball” 1971, “Machine Head” 1972 and “Made In Japan” also in 1972. Deep Purple were among the leading bands of the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal scene at the time (that included Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath) with songs such as “Speed King”, “Child In Time”, “Fireball”, “Highway Star” and of course their signature song “Smoke On The Water”. But internal feud within the band, specially between Gillian and guitarist Ritichie Blackmore, made him leave the band in 1973. After a time away from music , he resumed his music career with solo bands the Ian Gillan Band and Gillan. In 1983 he replaced Ronnie James Dio in Black Sabbath and recorded the album “Born Again”.
Returning to Deep Purple
He returned to Deep Purple shortly after, in 1984, but problems within the band led him to depart once more. Regarded as the “only” fitting Deep Purple vocalist, in 1992, the band’s fans demanded he return after not “taking” to his replacement, Joe Lynn Turner. And so it was. In 1994, following the recruitment of guitarist Steve Morse he has helped transform the group into a regular touring outfit, which he has fronted ever since. Gillan said of Blackmore’s final 1993 departure from Deep Purple, “he turned into a really weird guy, and the day he walked out of the tour was the day the clouds disappeared and the day the sunshine came out and we haven’t looked back since.” Recently in 2014, he did shut down some fans hopes of seeing Blackmore and Gillian together again on stage: “I don’t have an issue with Ritchie, nor does anyone. I’ve been in touch with Ritchie recently and everything’s cool, so there’s no bitter, personal problem. We’re too old for that and everything’s in the past.” He did however add that if Deep Purple were chosen as one of the inductees of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it would be out of the question to have Blackmore play with the band again due to it being “disrespectful” to the current lineup of the band” Aside of his main work as lead singer for Deep Purple and other bands, Gillian also sang the role of Jesus in the original recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. At 74, he still owns the vocals that made him famous.
Look back: Deep Purple playing “Smoke On The Water”, live in 1973
Deep Purple playing live “Child In Time”, 1970, a prime example of Ian Gillian’s vocals
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