Claude Nobs, the founder and general manager of the Montreux Jazz Festival, has died. "Funky" Claude Nobs passed away yesterday (Jan. 10) after sustaining injuries during a cross-country skiiing accident on Christmas Eve.

A letter on the festival's website introduced the news, reading, "For all of us, who were fortunate enough to cross your path, you will always remain the one who questioned certainties. 'And why not?' ... Reality was never challenged only your wildest dreams. The Montreux Jazz Festival is the ultimate proof of that."

Nobs founded the festival in 1967 and ushered in an era of rock and pop stars with the help of Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun of Atlantic Records. The 1973 Deep Purple song 'Smoke on the Water' would forever immortalize Nobs in rock music as the band described his efforts to save young concert fans from a fire that broke out during Frank Zappa's concert at the Montreux Casino in December 1971.

"Funky Claude was running in and out / Pulling kids out the ground."

Deep Purple wouldn't actually play the festival until 1996 (according to Classic Rock Magazine). By that time, Billboard reports, producer Quincy Jones was helping Nobs direct the festival. Nobs was always enthusiastic about the music, often appearing on stage to play his harmonica, and frequently inviting artists back to his home.

Listen to Deep Purple, 'Smoke on the Water'