Today is Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan's 66th birthday. One of the most influential, and possibly under-revered members of British rock royalty, Gillan shares a similar story with a great many of his countrymen. Gillan was born to a working class family perpetually on the move between different forms of public housing in a suburb of London, the very year World War II came to a close. Gillan's golden pipes were, in our not entirely unbiased opinion, the coup de gras or cherry atop the rock and roll sundae that the band was lacking with founding singer Rod Evans.
Regardless of what a classic album Purple's debut record is, for most fans the 1969-1973 line-up is the quintessential Deep Purple. Ian's mixture of operatic and aggressive pipes were the perfect mate to Ritchie Blackmore's similar mix of neo-classical and bombastic rock guitar playing, especially in context with Ian Paice's über-controlled drumming, Roger Glover's thumping bass and Jon Lord's imaginative and ground breaking organ work. This particular era was to spawn the archetypical over the top rock band sound that's become the format for the caricature of classic rock, right down to being the first band to utilize the moniker "Mark II" in a serious manner for their new lineup. I'm looking at you Jack Black and Spinal Tap.
In honor of the man who realistically made it OK to scream at the top of your lungs and range, and may be the real daddy of hair metal, here are some of our favorite and otherwise notable Gillan moments.
We will begin with the song that really shows why the man is such a legend, a performance of "Child in Time" from 1970.
Here we find the intrepid Gillan and his Mark II cohorts in full war mode, performing one of the best road-trip songs ever, "Black Night in Denmark." I wish there was a band that sounded like this in South Florida.
Speaking of road-trip songs, this one should fit in nicely between Foghat's "Slow Ride" and Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" on your ultimate cliche' driving tunes mix. Shout outs to Jon Lord's awesome solo, and Blackmore's silly hat.
In keeping with recent birthday activity, we present Ian as the voice of Jesus from the ORIGINAL recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. Eat your heart out Sebastian Bach.
Ian was in Black Sabbath for a year following the departure of Ronnie James Dio in the '80s. It was pretty terrible by most accounts. We'll let you decide.
Finally, here is some of Ian's most recent work with supergroup WhoCares. This band features Ian and Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi in conjunction with former Metallica bass player Jason Newsted, Iron Maiden drummer and South Florida resident Nicko McBrain, fellow Purple-man Jon Lord and Linde Lindström of HIM. This group is a charity organization, and more info can be found at Ian's website.
If the only Deep Purple track you're familiar with is "Smoke On The Water," do yourself a big favor and go locate a copy of Machine Head and bask in the glory that is Mark II. Happy birthday Ian!