Inspired by his father, Norman Airey, Don Airey took a love for music at a young age and was trained in classical piano from the age of seven. He continued his love for music by earning a degree at the University of Nottingham and a diploma at the Royal Northern College of Music.
In 1974 he moved to London and joined Cozy Powell's band Hammer. Don worked on several albums with solo artists and was a session musician on the 1978 Black Sabbath album Never Say Die! Soon after, he joined guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's band, Rainbow, and featured on Gary Moore's solo debut Back on the Streets. With Rainbow he contributed to two hit albums, Down to Earth and Difficult to Cure. He was also part of the very influential jazz rock band Colosseum II with Jon Hiseman, Gary Moore and John Mole which also formed the core band that recorded Andrew Lloyd Webber's variations on a theme of Paganini, simply called Variations.
After leaving Rainbow in 1981, Airey joined with Ozzy Osbourne for a three year stint where he helped with the albums Bark at the Moon and Speak of the Devil. He did play on the Diary of a Madman Tour from 1981-82 and appears on both Blizzard of Ozz & Diary of a Madman. Airey joined Jethro Tull in 1987 for their tour in support of Crest of a Knave. The same year also saw the release of Whitesnake's multi-platinum Whitesnake, on which Airey played keyboards. (The album is known as 1987 in Europe). Soon after he quit the band to record the solo album K2 - Tales of Triumph and Tragedy. In it he plays with Gary Moore, Keith Airey - guitars, Cozy Powell - drums, Laurence Cottle - bass, Chris (Hamlet) Thompson, Colin Blunstone, Mel Galley, Genki Hitomi - vocals.
In 1990 Don Airey played keyboards on Judas Priest's Painkiller Album. Originally Airey played on all Painkiller tracks but they were cut out to make the album more brutal-like.
In 1997 he arranged and played on "Love Shine a Light" by Katrina And The Waves, conducting the accompanying orchestra at The Eurovision Song Contest. The song won the contest.
In 1999 he joined Manchester-based melodic hard rock band Ten where he played keyboards on the album Babylon which was released in 2000. He also toured with the band in support of the new album.
He also worked with Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson on one of Dickinson's solo albums, playing keyboards on "Darkness Be My Friend". Airey also played keyboards on At Vance's mastermind Olaf Lenk's first solo album Sunset Cruise. In 2006 Airey featured on Gary Moore's release Old New Ballads Blues contributing to all tracks.
In 2008 Airey released his second solo album, A Light In The Sky and recently it has been announced that another solo album from Airey is set to premiere in 2011.
Airey went in semi-retirement until 2001, when he joined Deep Purple to fill in for an injured Jon Lord, who has since retired. Airey joined the band as a full time keyboardist in March 2002. He has recorded two studio albums with the band, Bananas and Rapture of the Deep.
Airey lives with his wife, Doris, and their three children in South West Cambridgeshire. The first half of the 1990s saw Airey's son suffer from a serious illness, so his musical activity was largely on hiatus during this time.
He has a brother, Keith Airey, who played guitar for the reformed version of The Zombies from 2001 to 2010.
He is currently writing a book about his experiences in the music business.