According to a statement from his agent, Zach Farnum, Jerry Lee Lewis, the piano-pounding, foot-stomping singer who energized early rock ‘n’ roll with singles like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” before a marriage scandal destroyed his career, has passed away in 87.
According to the announcement, Lewis passed away at his residence in Memphis, Mississippi’s Desoto County. When contacted via phone, Farnum informed CNN that Lewis passed away from “natural causes.” Lewis “told her, in his final days, that he embraced the afterlife and that he was not afraid,” the statement continued. His seventh wife, Judith, was by his side when he passed away.
Lewis was one of the prominent figures of the 1950s rock era, along with Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and others. Lewis was a superb showman known as “The Killer” for his raw, untamed performances that sent youthful admirers into spasmodic fits.
“I was made to perform on stages. I was eager to board it. My dreams included that. And I’ve been on one throughout my life,” Lewis claimed in Rick Bragg’s 2014 biography “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story.” I’m happy there, she said.
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The singer’s personal life, however, was tumultuous off-stage. When news of Lewis’ marriage to his first cousin Myra Gale Brown reached the public in 1958, he was at the height of his popularity. Lewis was 22, and she was 13 at the time.
Lewis had travelled to London for a few shows when word of the wedding broke there. Lewis misled the media by stating that Myra was 15 years old, but the reality soon surfaced, sparking outrage as newspapers ran headlines like “Fans Aghast at Child Bride.” After three gigs, the tour was called off due to audience jeers directed towards Lewis
Over the following ten years, Lewis kept on recording and performing. Still, his rockabilly music didn’t catch on during the Beatles’ era, and he struggled to reclaim his prior level of fame. That is until he made a remarkable comeback as a country singer.
Lewis was born in Ferriday, Louisiana, in 1935 to a substandard farming family. Jimmy Swaggart, one of his relatives, would become a well-known TV evangelist. Lewis said he started playing the piano at nine and imitated local preachers and Black musicians.
Lewis moved to Sun Studios in Memphis in 1956 after quitting school to concentrate on his music, where he rapidly found employment as a session musician for rising stars like Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Along with Elvis Presley, he also recorded.
The “Million Dollar Quartet,” also known as Lewis, Presley, Perkins, and Cash, participated in a recording session in December 1956 that would go down in rock history as a turning point.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis Dies At 87 https://t.co/0COFNuoYLQ
— hjtvnews.in (@hjtvnews_in) October 29, 2022
Lewis became well-known worldwide the following year due to Top 5 hits like “Great Balls of Fire,” despite some radio stations banning his music due to his provocative appearance and suggestive lyrics.
After the marriage scandal, Lewis’s aura was never quite the same. He reinvented himself as a country musician in the late 1960s to resurrect his career after a decade of declining sales. He continued to record Top 10 country hits far into the 1970s.
Lewis was the subject of the 1989 biopic “Great Balls of Fire!” with Dennis Quaid playing the lead role. For the score, Lewis even produced fresh takes on some of his classic songs. His personal life, though, remained chaotic. He was married seven times and declared bankruptcy in 1988, alleging a $2 million debt to the IRS.
He fought drug addiction, alcoholism, and other health issues for many years. He famously crashed his automobile into the gates of Graceland while trying to visit Presley in a drunken stupor in 1976, leading to his arrest there in the early hours of the morning with a loaded revolver.
According to Lewis’ statement in Bragg’s biography, “I ain’t no good, and I ain’t no phony.” “I never pretended to be anything, and I always carried out my actions as if they were case knives, wide open. I’ve enjoyed myself while living my life to the utmost.
According to a message on his social media, Lewis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October but could not attend the ceremony due to being sick with the flu.
Giving The People A ‘Show’
Lewis struggled from time to time to balance his love of rock ‘n’ roll, which conservative audiences in the 1950s derided as “the devil’s music,” with his rigorous, religious upbringing.
Although he didn’t produce many original songs, he was excellent at reinterpreting others’ songs with his contagious boogie-woogie beats, which helped rockabilly music gain popularity.
But his uncontrolled piano-playing style, which impacted Elton John and many other performers, may have been his most incredible enduring legacy. During performances, Lewis kicked over his piano stool, hit the keys with his fists and elbows, climbed up onto the piano, and even lit it on fire. He demonstrated that rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t simply about the guitar in this way.
He became a part of the first class of musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, joining a galaxy of influential figures that included Berry, Presley, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and the Everly Brothers.
Lewis spent the majority of his life on a ranch in northern Mississippi with a swimming pool in the shape of a piano. He could never completely escape the disgrace of marrying his young cousin. However, his enthusiastic live performances and contagious music made up for his failings in the eyes of his admirers.
In a tuxedo and tie or a tattered shirt and pair of blue jeans, it doesn’t matter as long as the audience sees the performance; I want to be remembered as a rock and roll icon. What matters is the show. Everything is covered up,” he said to Bragg.
“Any negative opinions someone may have ever had of you vanishes. “Was it the person who wed that girl?” Well, forget it; I’ll listen to that tune. According to a statement from his representative, Lewis is survived by his wife, Judith Coghlan Lewis. His children are Jerry Lee Lewis III, Ronnie Lewis, Pheobe Lewis, Lori Lancaster, sister Linda Gail Lewis, cousin Swaggart, and many grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
In the upcoming days, information on the services will be made public, the statement added. The Lewis family asked that memorial contributions be made in the singer’s honour to MusiCares or the Arthritis Foundation instead of flowers.