Jerry Lee Lewis, the founding father of brilliant rock ‘n’ roll, country man of fame and 2005 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, passed away on Friday. He was 87 years old.
Lewis died of natural causes at his home in DeSoto County, Mississippi, south of Memphis, his public servant, Zach Farnum of 117 Group, said. The Hollywood Reporter. TMZ soon reported on his death earlier this week.
Nicknamed “The Killer,” Lewis is an electric performer still performing in his late 80s. Known for rock music standards like “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On”, “Great Balls of Fire”, “Baby Baby Bye Bye”, “Breathless” and “High School Confidential”, he has amassed 10 Golden record in his career, with the biggest, all-star duet in 2006 The last man standingsold more than half a million units worldwide.
As a pianist – and an unflinching rock star – Lewis blends rockabilly, gospel, blues and country as he slams the higher keys frantically with his right hand. With his long blonde hair flying around, he would often stand on top of the piano, knocking over benches and whatever else was on stage.
A precursor to The Who and Jimi Hendrix, Lewis even burned his instrument, making it impossible for anyone to pass. “No one wants to follow Jerry Lee,” Johnny Cash once said, “not even Elvis.”
Elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 1986, Lewis has been called “one of the best American vocalists ever” by collaborator Kris Kristofferson. A documentary about his life, Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in the Mind, director Ethan Coen, bowing at this year’s Cannes.
Lewis has had a tumultuous life, and he was met with media backlash when it was revealed that he had secretly worked for his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Gale Brown, who his third wife, in December 1957. He was 22 years old then.
Born on September 19, 1935, in East Louisiana to impoverished Elmo and Mamie Lewis parents, Lewis was raised Catholic and raised on a family farm in Ferriday, which “bred forth.” more famous people than any other small town in America.” he said once.
Lewis taught himself to play the piano at the age of eight and sing gospel music in church. His two cousins, Mickey Gilley, who became a successful country singer, and Jimmy Swaggart, eventually a famous television evangelist, shared a similar taste in music. His formative influences include listening to Grand Ole Opry radio shows featuring Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and Moon Mullican.
Lewis moved to Memphis in 1956 to audition for Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records and the first to record Cash, Elvis Presley, and Carl Perkins. Phillips wasn’t there when Lewis arrived, so producer Jack Clement recorded Lewis’ debut single, a rockabilly version of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms.”
Lewis continued to work in the studio as a musician, playing the piano on numerous recordings by Cash, Billy Lee Riley (“Flyin ‘Saucers Rock’ n ‘Roll”) and Perkins (“You Can Do No Wrong”) ”, “Your True Love”), among others. The Million Dollar Quartet sessions at the Sun, recorded by Phillips, were the result of a spontaneous exchange of gospel songs, featuring Presley, Cash, Perkins, and Lewis.
(Lewis was later part of a tribute to the legendary Presley Class ’55 album with Cash, Perkins and Roy Orbison.)
Lewis ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin ‘On’ rockabilly version, first recorded by Big Maybelle, peaked at #1 on the country and R&B charts and #3 on the pop chart last year. 1957. “I knew it was a hit when I cut it,” Lewis said, “but Sam Phillips thought it was too risky. “
Memphis critic Robert Gordon wrote: “Jerry Lee is beginning to show that in this emerging rock ‘n’ roll genre, not everyone is going to stand there with a guitar.”
“Great Balls of Fire,” also premiered in 1957, brought Lewis undeniable worldwide fame, and “Breathless” followed in 1958, both of which entered the Top 10 in turn across the board. pop music chart at 2nd and 7th place.
After his marriage to Brown was revealed, radio stations stopped broadcasting his profile and Dick Clark canceled his appearances on American Bandstand. Venues paid him nearly $10,000 a night before the scandal; now his asking price is the lowest $250 per interaction.
However, he was still under contract with Sun Records, and Ray Charles’ subsequent recording of “What’d I Say” enjoyed some success. His deal with Sun ended in 1963 and he went on to release other songs with Smash Records, but nothing reached the pinnacle of those early releases, even as he continued to achieve success. performed well on the Country charts. His Live at the Star Club, Hamburg The 1964 album is considered one of the most epic live shows ever released.
In 1968, Lewis recorded a Top 10 country hit, “Another Place, Another Time”, followed by the number-one single “To Make Love Sweeter for You”, and he had other hits including “What’s Made”. Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me), “Once More With Feeling”, “There Must Be More To Love Than This” and “Me & Bobby McGee.”
He recorded “Thirty-Nine and Holding” on Elektra Records in 1981 and later signed with MCA Records.
He returned to the limelight in 1989 with the film Great Fireball!, starring Dennis Quaid as Lewis and Winona Ryder as Myra Gale and based on the book by Myra Lewis. (Lewis recorded the songs for the soundtrack.)
Raw footage of the concert has been included in a companion DVD with The last man standing albums, The last man standing directly, his 10th gold plate. It features duets with Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart and Jimmy Page, among others.
He has collaborated with Eric Clapton, Merle Haggard, Page and others on It means old man in 2010 and three years later opened Jerry Lee Lewis’ Cafe & Honky Tonk on Beale Street in Memphis.
He released Rock & Roll Time, his third album of the decade and first for Vanguard, in 2014; Lewis’ version of the title track, originally co-written and recorded by Kristofferson, features guitarists Doyle Bramhall, Jon Brion and Kenny Lovelace along with vocalists Vonda Shepard and Bernard Fowler.
“This is a rock ‘n’ roll record,” he said Rolling Stone. “That’s just the way it came out.”
The rest of the album was choreographed with many of the artists he inspired, including Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, Nils Lofgren and Shelby Lynne. It includes covers of songs by Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Paul Rodgers and his old friend Cash (“Folsom Prison Blues”), one of two on which he plays guitar.
Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Storya biography written by Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg, published in 2015.
Lewis has six children with seven different wives, and his life has been marred by a number of tragedies, starting with when his brother, Elmo Jr., was killed when Lewis was 3 years old.
He married Dorothy Barton in 1952 when he was 14 years old. They divorced in 53, a month before he married Jane Mitchum, with whom he had two children, Jerry Lee Jr and Ronnie Guy. (Jerry Jr died at age 19 in a car crash in 1973.)
Lewis has two children with Brown: Steve – who drowned when he was 3 in 1962 – and Phoebe.
His fourth wife, Jaren Elizabeth Gunn Pete, gave birth to their daughter, Lori Lee, before dying in a friend’s swimming pool before their divorce was final. He married Shawn Stephens in ’83, and she died three months after they were married.
His sixth marriage, to Kerrie McCarver, lasted from 1984-2004 and produced a son, Jerry Lee Lewis III. He married his seventh wife, Judith Brown, in 2012, and they live on a ranch in Nesbit, Mississippi.
In addition to Judith and Swaggart, survivors include his four remaining children, Jerry Lee Lewis III, Ronnie, Phoebe and Lori, and his sister, Linda. Donations in his honor can be made to the Arthritis Foundation or MusiCares.