Updated: Nov 1, 2022
Our Tribute to a Genius and contortion. A troubled life, accused of paedophilia, which cost him his tour in the UK. The most influential pianist of the 20th Century left us yesterday 2022/10/28 at the age of 87 in DeSoto County in the USA.
Jerry Lee Lewis, when he was a kid, ran away from home to go to a black music club (Blues) where he learnt to play the piano, thus creating a way of playing the instrument in which they said he had black fingers on his left hand, and white fingers on his right hand!
A pioneer of rockabilly, Lewis made his first recordings in 1956 through "Sun Records" in Memphis, Tennessee. "Crazy Arms" sold 300,000 copies in the southern United States, but it was his 1957 hit album "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" that propelled Jerry to worldwide fame.
He followed this with the major hits "Great Balls of Fire", "Breathless", and "High School Confidential"
Lewis switched, 1979, to Elektra and produced the critically acclaimed Jerry Lee Lewis, although sales were disappointing. In 1986, Lewis was one of the inaugural inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although looking frail after several hospitalizations due to stomach problems, Lewis was responsible for beginning an unplanned jam at the end of the evening, which was eventually incorporated into all future events. That year, he returned to Sun Studio in Memphis to team up with Orbison, Cash, and Perkins along with longtime admirers like John Fogerty to create the album Class of '55.
In 1989, a major motion picture based on his early life in rock and roll, Great Balls of Fire!, brought him back into the public eye, especially when he decided to re-record all his songs for the movie soundtrack. The film was based on the book by Lewis's ex-wife, Myra Gale Lewis, and starred Dennis Quaid as Lewis, Winona Ryder as Myra, and Alec Baldwin as Jimmy Swaggart. The movie focuses on Lewis's early career and his relationship with Myra and ends with the scandal of the late 1950's. A year later, in 1990, Lewis made minor news when a new song he recorded called "It Was the Whiskey Talkin' (Not Me)" was included in the soundtrack to the hit movie Dick Tracy. The song is also heard in the movie, playing on the radio. The public downfall of his cousin, television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart around the same time, resulted in more adverse publicity to a troubled family. Swaggart is also a piano player, as is another cousin, country music star Mickey Gilley. All three listened to the same music in their youth and frequented Haney's Big House, the Ferriday club that featured black blues acts. Lewis and Swaggart had a complex relationship over the years.
In 1998, Lewis toured Europe with Chuck Berry and Little Richard. On 12th of February 2005, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Recording Academy. On 26th of September 2006, a new album titled Last Man Standing was released, featuring many of rock and roll's elite as guest stars. Receiving positive reviews, the album charted in four different Billboard charts, including a two-week stay at number one on the Indie charts. A DVD entitled Last Man Standing Live, featuring concert footage with many guest artists, was released in March 2007.
Lewis performing in 2006
In October 2008, as part of a successful European tour, Lewis appeared at two London shows: a special private show at the 100 Club on 25th of October at the London Forum on 28th October with Wanda Jackson and his sister, Linda Gail Lewis. In August 2009, in advance of his new album, a single entitled "Mean Old Man" was released for download. It was written by Kris Kristofferson. An EP featuring this song and four more was also released on November. On October 2009, Lewis opened the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In May 2013, Lewis opened a new club on Beale Street in Memphis. Lewis was still considered actively performing in concert, though he had to cancel all shows since his February 2019, stroke, waiting for his doctors' go-ahead.
In 2017 Lewis had a personal presence at The Country Music Television Skyville Live show. It was a specially recorded performance featuring a whole array of artists paying tribute to the music of Lewis
In March 2020, it was announced that Lewis, together with producer T-Bone Burnett, was recording a new album of gospel covers. It was the first time he entered a recording studio following his stroke.
On 27th October 2020, to celebrate Lewis's 85th birthday, a livestream aired on YouTube, Facebook and his official website. The livestream special, Whole Lotta Celebratin' Goin' On, featured appearances and performances by Willie Nelson, Elton John, Mike Love, Priscilla Presley, Joe Walsh, and others. John Stamos served as the host.
Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind is the title of a documentary on Lewis released in 2022 and directed by Ethan Coen. Earlier in 2022, a collaborative gospel album was released with Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousin Jimmy Swaggart, called The Boys from Ferriday.
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 had died. Two days later, he died at his home in Nesbit, Mississippi, following a bout of pneumonia, at the age of 87 on October 28, 2022!
R.I.P. Great Balls of Fire