Cousin of TV Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Country Music star, the late Mickey Gilley, Rock and Roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis dead at 87

Jerry Lee Lewis publicity photo, c. 1950s. By photographer Maurice Seymour, Chicago. JPG, CC0, https commons.wikimedia.org

FROM WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

Jerry Lee Lewis (September 29, 1935 – October 28, 2022) was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Nicknamed The Killer, he was described as “rock n’ roll‘s first great wild man and one of the most influential pianists of the 20th century.” A pioneer of rock and roll and rockabilly music, Lewis made his first recordings in 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. “Crazy Arms” sold 300,000 copies in the South, but it was his 1957 hit “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” that shot Lewis to fame worldwide. He followed this with the major hits “Great Balls of Fire“, “Breathless“, and “High School Confidential“. His rock and roll career faltered in the wake of his marriage to Myra Gale Brown, his 13-year-old cousin once removed.

His popularity quickly eroded following the scandal and with few exceptions such as a cover of Ray Charles‘s “What’d I Say“, he did not have much chart success in the early 1960s. His live performances at this time were increasingly wild and energetic. His 1964 live album Live at the Star Club, Hamburg is regarded by many music journalists and fans in general as one of the wildest and greatest live rock albums ever. In 1968, Lewis made a transition into country music and had hits with songs such as “Another Place, Another Time“. This reignited his career, and throughout the late 1960s and 1970s he regularly topped the country-western charts; throughout his seven-decade career, Lewis had 30 songs reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Country and Western Chart. His No. 1 country hits included “To Make Love Sweeter for You“, “There Must Be More to Love Than This“, “Would You Take Another Chance on Me“, and “Me and Bobby McGee“.

Lewis’s successes continued throughout the decades and he embraced his rock and roll past with songs such as a cover of The Big Bopper‘s “Chantilly Lace” and Mack Vickery‘s “Rockin’ My Life Away”. In the 21st century, Lewis continued to tour around the world and released new albums. His 2006 album Last Man Standing was his bestselling release, with over a million copies sold worldwide. This was followed by Mean Old Man in 2010, which received some of the best sales of Lewis’s career.

Lewis had a dozen gold records in both rock and country. He won four Grammy awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards. Lewis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and his pioneering contribution to the genre was recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2022. In 1989, his life was chronicled in the movie Great Balls of Fire, starring Dennis Quaid. In 2003, Rolling Stone listed his box set All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology at number 242 on their list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time“. In 2004, they ranked him No. 24 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Lewis was the last surviving member of Sun Records‘ Million Dollar Quartet and the album Class of ’55, which also included Johnny CashCarl PerkinsRoy Orbison, and Elvis Presley.

Music critic Robert Christgau said of Lewis: “His drive, his timing, his offhand vocal power, his unmistakable boogie-plus piano, and his absolute confidence in the face of the void make Jerry Lee the quintessential rock and roller.”

ILLNESS’ AND DEATH

On February 28, 2019, Lewis had a minor stroke in Memphis. He fully recovered after several canceled appearances.

On October 26, 2022, TMZ and other news outlets falsely reported that Lewis died. Two days later, he died at his home in DeSoto County, Mississippi, aged 87.

The gate to Jerry Lee Lewis’ ranch in Nesbit, Mississippi. 2012 photo By Thomas R Machnitzki (thomas@machnitzki.com) – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

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