Jerry Lee Lewis, the rocker who pounding his feet and piano revolutionized early rock and roll with hits such as “Great balls of fire” along with “Whole A Lotta Shakin'” prior to the scandal that ruined the career of his idol, has passed away according to the statement of his agent, Zach Farnum. He was 87.
Lewis died from his residence located in Desoto County, Mississippi, to the south of Memphis according to the statement. Farnum said to CNN that Lewis passed away from “natural cause” when contacted by phone.
Seventh wife Judith stood by him at the time of his death as well. Lewis “told her in his last days that he looked forward to the future and said that he didn’t fear death,” the statement added.
Alongside Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and many others, Lewis was one of the top performers during the rock era of 1950s and a great showman known as “The Killer” – whose wild, unbridled performances caused young fans to go through spasmodic outbursts.
“I was meant to be a stage. I was ecstatic to get on stage. I fantasized about it. And I’ve been on it throughout my life,” Lewis said in “Jerry Lee Lewis His Own Story” an autobiography written in 2014 written by Rick Bragg. “That’s where I’m most happy.”
However, off stage, the singer’s private life was turbulent. Lewis was at the height of his popularity in the year 1958 when the public was informed that Lewis had gotten married to Myra Gale Brown, his first cousin. She was just 13 at the time and Lewis was just 22 years old.
The news of the wedding came out in London the city from which Lewis was on tour to perform in a couple of shows. Lewis stated to the media that Myra was 15years old, however, the truth quickly came out, and caused a furore in the press, with newspapers blasting headlines as “Fans are aghast over Child Bride.” Audiences were astonished Lewis as well as the show was pulled after three shows.
Lewis recorded and continued to tour throughout the following decade however, his rockabilly songs did not sell well in the Beatles period and he didn’t gain the popularity in his earlier years until he made an unlikely return to the scene as a country music singer.
Lewis was born on the night of 1935 to an agriculturally poor family from Ferriday, Louisiana. One of his brothers, Jimmy Swaggart, would be an extremely popular television evangelist. Lewis’ website states that he started playing the piano at the age of 9 imitating the style of the preachers of his time and Black musicians who toured across the area.
When he dropped out of high school to pursue a career in musical instruments, Lewis traveled in 1956 to Sun Studios in Memphis in the United States, where he swiftly began working as session player for young stars like Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. He recorded as well in collaboration with Elvis Presley.
A recording session held in December 1956 featuring Lewis, Presley, Perkins and Cash The group was dubbed”Million Dollar Quartet. “Million Dollar Quartet” It was a landmark moment in the history of rock.
In the year following the following year, due to Top 5 hits like “Great Balls of Fire,”” Lewis was internationally famous despite his flamboyant style and provocative lyrics led some radio stations to stop playing his songs.
Then there was the scandal surrounding the marriage Then came the marriage scandal, and Lewis His aura was never the same.
Following a period of shrinking sales, he re-invented himself in the latter half of the 1960s as a singer-songwriter and revitalized his career making a number of Top 10 country hits well into the Seventies.
In 1989 “Great Gala Balls!”, a biopic featuring Dennis Quaid as Lewis, brought interest to Lewis and his music. Lewis even composed songs with new arrangements of his songs to be used in the soundtrack.
However, his private life was chaotic. He had seven marriages and declared bankruptcy back in the year 1988. claiming that he had owed his IRS nearly $2 million.
He struggled with alcoholism, addiction, and other health issues for many years. In one of the most notorious incidents in 1976 that he was detained at Graceland in the early morning hours after drunkenly driving his car through the gates of the mansion – with a loaded gun when he tried to make a visit to Presley.
“I don’t have any goody goody and I’m not a fake,” Lewis said in Bragg’s biography. “I never claimed to be anyone, and everything I ever did was done openly as an open-faced case knife. It was a great life. I’ve had a great time doing it.”
On October 1, Lewis got inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame however, he was not able to attend the event due to his illness was due to the flu, as per an announcement posted on Facebook and Twitter.
Showing the people how to behave’
Lewis was born into a strict, religious family and at times was unable to reconcile the faith he had with God with his love for music that conservatives in the 1950s decried as “the Satan’s music.”
He wrote a few songs, but he was great in interpreting other composers’ works by incorporating his rousing boogie-woogie style, which helped introduce rockabilly music to the mainstream.
However, his lasting legacy could have been his wild piano playing style that has influenced Elton John and many other musicians. In concert, Lewis played the piano with his elbows and fists and kicked his piano stool, and climbed on top of his instrument, and even ignited it.
In this manner he demonstrated the world that rock and roll was not solely about the guitar.
He was born in 1986 and was part of an array of seminal characters such as Berry, Presley, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and the Everly Brothers – as the first group of artists admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Lewis spent the majority of his time on an estate in the northern part of Mississippi with a pool shaped like a piano pool. He didn’t quite overcome the scandal of getting married to his cousin. To his fans his infectious music and his explosive live shows helped make up the snafu of his personal sins.
“I wish to remain a rock-n’-roll idol, dressed in suits and tie, as well as blue jeans with a worn shirt, it doesn’t matter, so long as people enjoy the show. The show is what matters. It covers everything.” Bragg said. Bragg.
“Any negative feelings anyone was able to think about you is gone. Is that the person who got married to that girl? Let it go and let me listen to the track.'”
Lewis remains with his spouse, Judith Coghlan Lewis, his children Jerry Lee Lewis III, Ronnie Lewis, Pheobe Lewis and Lori Lancaster, sister Linda Gail Lewis and cousin Swaggart and a host of grandchildren as well as nieces and nephews according to the statement of his representative.
The details of services will be made public in the next few days, the statement said.
Instead of flowers In lieu of flowers, the Lewis family has requested that donations in the tribute in his memory to Arthritis Foundation or MusiCares.