Jerry Lee Lewis: Rock Star and Great Fireball Singer Dies at 87 Ents & Art News

Rock star Jerry Lee Lewis, best known for his 1957 hit Big Fireball, has died at the age of 87.

Lewis’ representative, Zach Farnham, confirmed that Lewis died at his home in Memphis, Tennessee.

The rock pioneer who called himself The Killer was also known for the song Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, and was the last survivor of a generation of seminal performers including Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

He has been described as a “single stomper”. A chair was thrown at him while performing Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On for the TV show in 1957.

“There was rock. There was Elvis. But there was no pure rock until Jerry Lee Lewis kicked the door,” he said of himself after the show.

However, his private life was marred by scandal.

Jerry Lee Lewis delivers a special performance during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on March 14, 2005 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.REUTERS/Ms. Mike Segal
Jerry Lee Lewis performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inauguration in New York in 2005

For a brief period in 1958, he was a serious contender to replace Presley as the number one rock man, following the Elvis was drafted into the army.

But when Lewis was touring England, the media discovered he was married to 13-year-old (maybe even 12) Myra Gail Brown. She is his cousin and he also married his ex-wife.

His tours were canceled, he was blacklisted on radio, and his earnings dropped to almost nothing overnight.

“I might rearrange my life a little differently, but I never hide anything from people,” Lewis told The Wall Street Journal in 2014 when asked about the marriage. “I just went on with my life as usual.”

mental abuse

In the decades that followed, Lewis battled drug and alcohol abuse, legal troubles, and physical illness.

Two of his seven marriages ended in the untimely death of his wife. Brown herself divorced him in the early 1970s and later claimed that the physical and mental abuse nearly drove her to suicide.

“If I were still married to Jerry, I’d probably be dead by now,” she told PEOPLE in 1989.

Lewis reinvented himself as a country performer in the 1960s, and the music industry eventually forgave him.

He has won three Grammys and has recorded with some of the biggest stars in the business, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow and Tim McGraw.

Lewis has six children. Three-year-old son Steve Allen Lewis drowned in a swimming pool in 1962 and another son, Jerry Lee Jr, died in a traffic accident in 1973 at age 19 age.

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