Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

One of the earliest and most influential stars of rock ‘n’ roll has died: Jerry Lee Lewis, the piano-playing rocker behind classics like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” died on October 28, 2022.

The announcement of his death came as a shock – for many reasons.

For example, the tragic news came just one day after the singer’s death was erroneously reported by TMZ.

So, it was a bit messy around Jerry Lee Lewis’s death – but maybe it went hand in hand with the singer’s often turbulent and controversial career.

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A rock ‘n’ roll pioneer

Lewis, nicknamed “The Killer,” became a star in the 1950s, as rock ‘n’ roll was emerging as the favorite music of America’s youth. Lewis, with his energetic stage presence and bad-boy persona, is regarded as an architect for the genre, helping define its sound and image.

 “I had created rock & roll before they ever thought about having rock & roll,” Lewis told Rolling Stone in 2014. “When Elvis come out, he was rockabilly. When I come out with ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,’ that was rock & roll. That’s when the name ‘rock & roll’ was put in front.”

Lewis was known for infusing his performance with stage antics that shocked and thrilled audiences, including setting the piano on fire and playing the instrument with his feet.

In his heyday, he was a rival to megastars like Elvis Presley. He is best remembered for two definitive early-rock hits: “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” both released in 1957.

Both were listed among the 100 greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone, and were highly influential in the rock genre.

(Original Caption) 8/1957: Portrait of rock-and-roll recording artist Jerry Lee Lewis. He is shown seated at the piano, singing.

“Jerry Lee began to show that in this new emerging genre called rock ‘n’ roll, not everybody was going to stand there with a guitar,” critic Robert Gordon said of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Likewise, Elton John has called it “the perfect rock ‘n’ roll record.”

“He’s the best rock & roll pianist ever,” Elton John said in 2007, per Rolling Stone. “I couldn’t play like him because he’s too fast.”

While Lewis was one of the founding architects of rock ‘n’ roll, his scandalous personal life also affected his career and legacy.

Perhaps the most notorious scandal was his marriage to Myra Gail Brown, who was 13 at the time and Lewis’ second cousin. Lewis was also still in a previous marriage when the two got married. This led to a massive scandal and had a negative impact on his career for several years.

During Jerry Lee Lewis’ first European tour, when the newlyweds traveled to England, he falsely claimed that his new wife was 15 years old. However, when the truth came to light, the UK tabloids labeled him a ”cradle robber” and a ”baby snatcher”.

Rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis and wife Myra, who is also his cousin, hug. The couple married when Myra was 13 years old.

It caused a media scandal that caused a major career setback: Lewis was exiled to smaller venues and struggled on the music charts.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer didn’t quite grasp all the commotion, as he candidly remarked to a reporter, “I simply married the girl, didn’t I?”

The controversial marriage led to boycotts of his music and appearance fees that plummeted from $10,000 a night to $250.

However, he later found renewed success after pivoting into country music.

Yet his personal life was plagued by heartbreak and scandal: In 1962 his 3-year-old son Steve Allen Lewis drowned. Lewis and Myra also had another child together, Phoebe.

However, despite their attempts, their marriage did not turn out to be a harmonious one. In 1970, Myra initiated divorce proceedings, citing adultery and abuse as the grounds, asserting that she had endured “various forms of physical and psychological mistreatment beyond imagination.”

In 1975, Lewis was arrested for shooting his office in Nashville, accidentally shooting his bassist in the chest. Lewis also struggled with alcohol and drug use.

ATLANTA – OCTOBER 11: Rock ‘N’ Roll and country singer Jerry Lee Lewis performs on October 11, 1986 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Another scandal came in 1983, after his fifth wife Shawn Stephens died: while the official cause of death was an accidental overdose of methadone, some accused Lewis of wrongdoing, which he denied.

“They’re trying to slaughter me,” he told the LA Times in 1984. “But I’m used to it. People have been trying for 30 years to show that I’m the wrong kind of person. But justice will catch up with them. My conscience is clear.”

Death and legacy

Still, Lewis’ influence as one of the founders of rock ‘n’ roll is undeniable, and for decades fellow musicians have admired his pioneering talent. He was one of the first inductees to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

And just days before his death, he was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame, making him one of the few artists to receive both honors.

Jerry Lee Lewis cause of death

Lewis died of “natural causes” at his home in Desoto County, Mississippi, his representative told CNN.

Many fellow musicians praised Lewis’ talent and legacy after his passing.

“He’s the only guy, other than Ray Charles, who sings country and rock ‘n’ roll authentically,” singer Kris Kristofferson told the LA Times. “I don’t think he’s gotten the credit for how good he really is. I’m sure that he ranks right up there with Frank Sinatra and all the great American singers.”

Rest in peace to Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the great pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll music.

Please share this story to pay tribute to this music icon.

By Admin

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