British guitarist and songwriter Richard “Ritchie” Blackmore was born 14 April in 1945. He was one of the first guitarists to fuse classical music elements with blues rock. He began his professional career as a studio session musician and was subsequently a member of Deep Purple, after which Blackmore established a successful career fronting his own band Rainbow, and later progressed to the traditional folk rock project Blackmore’s Night. Blackmore joined the rock group Deep Purple in 1968 after receiving the invitation from Jon Lord (organs). The band had a hit US single with its remake of the Joe South song “Hush”. Purple’s early sound leaned on psychedelia and progressive rock This line-up produced three studio albums. The second line-up’s first studio album, In Rock, changed the band’s style, turning it in a hard rock direction. This “Mark Two” line-up featuring singer Ian Gillan lasted until mid-1973, produced four studio albums and had their well-known hit single “Smoke on the Water”.The third line-up’s new album was entitled Burn, which featured blues singer, David Coverdale. This “Mark Three” line-up lasted until mid-1975 and produced two studio albums. Blackmore publicly disliked the funky soul influences that Coverdale and bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes injected into the band. Following its conclusion, he abandoned the band to front a new group, Rainbow. Blackmore originally planned to make a solo album, but instead in 1975 formed his own band Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, later shortened to Rainbow. Featuring American vocalist Ronnie James Dio and his blues rock band Elf as session musicians, this first line-up never performed live. Rainbow’s music was partly inspired by classical music since Blackmore started playing cello to help him construct interesting chord progressions in private time.
The band’s debut album, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, was released in 1975. Blackmore had been impressed by Dio’s relatively flexible vocalist-style. Shortly after the first album was recorded, former Elf members except Dio were at that point no longer members of Rainbow, and Blackmore recruited a new lineup to record the second album Rising, and the following live album, On Stage. Rising was originally billed as Blackmore’s Rainbow in the US. After the next studio album’s release and supporting tour, Ronnie James Dio left Rainbow due to “creative differences” with Blackmore, who disliked Dio’s signature ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ lyric style. Blackmore continued with Rainbow and the band released a new album entitled Down To Earth, which featured R&B singer Graham Bonnet. The album marked the commercialization of the band’s sound, and contained Rainbow’s first chart successes, as the single “Since You Been Gone” (a cover of the Russ Ballard penned tune) became a smash hit. Bonnet left the band after this support tour.
The next album, Difficult to Cure, introduced American vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. The instrumental title track from this album was an arrangement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with additional music, a personal favourite of Blackmore’s. The album marked the further commercialization of the band’s sound with Blackmore once describing at the time liking for the pop rock band, Foreigner. Hard rock-based fans thought the vocal parts ended up being a bit too melodic than Rainbow’s previous releases. The music was consciously radio-targeted, in a more AOR style, resulting in some degree of alienation with many of their earlier fans. Rainbow’s next studio album was Straight Between the Eyes and included the hit single “Stone Cold.” It would be followed by the album Bent Out of Shape, which featured the single “Street Of Dreams”. In 1983 Blackmore was also nominated for a Grammy Award for his work on an instrumental ballard track, “Anybody There”. Rainbow disbanded in 1984. A then-final Rainbow album, Finyl Vinyl, was patched together from live tracks and the “B” sides of various singles. In 1984, Blackmore joined a reunion of Deep Purple featuring singer Ian Gillan and recorded new material. This reunion line-up lasted until 1989 and produced two studio albums. The next line-up recorded one album entitled Slaves & Masters, which featured former Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. The album’s style differed from the traditional Purple sound. Subsequently the “Mark Two” line-up reunited for a second time in late 1992 and produced one studio album. During its follow-up promotional tour, Blackmore again left the band in November 1993. Blackmore reformed Rainbow with new members in 1994. This Rainbow line-up, featuring Scottish singer Doogie White, lasted until 1997 and produced Stranger in Us All in 1995. It was originally intended to be a solo album but due to the record company pressures the record was billed as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Released in the post-grunge mid-1990s, a relatively successful world tour followed. Though White was not as distinctive as its previous singers, with a style comfortably sitting somewhere between the neo-classical metal and the radio friendly commerciality, Stranger In Us All had a sound dissimilar to any Rainbow of old.
This is regarded as his last hard rock album. Rainbow was put on hold once again after playing its final concert in 1997. Over the years Rainbow went through many personnel changes with no two studio albums featuring the same line-up: Blackmore was the sole constant band member. In 1997 Blackmore, with his girlfriend Candice Night as vocalist, formed the traditional folk rock duo Blackmore’s Night. Around the same time as Stranger in Us All, they were producing their debut album Shadow of the Moon and Candice Night subsequently became Blackmore’s creative partner. Blackmore described their sound as “Mike Oldfield plus Enya” Blackmore mostly utilised acoustic guitar, to back Night’s delicate vocals. The band’s musical style is inspired by his favorite Renaissance music and blends with Night’s lyrics about medieval themes and fantasy. They recorded a mixture of original and cover materials. The second album released by Blackmore’s Night was entitled Under a Violet Moon and continued the folk-rock style, Blackmore was ranked number 16 on Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Metal Guitarists of All Time” in 2004, and number 50 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” in 2011.