Jerry Lee Lewis: “Great Balls of Fire” Rock and Roll and Country legend passes away at 87

Last Updated on November 1, 2022

Jerry Lee Lewis, dies, Great Balls of Fire

Jerry Lee Lewis, the world-famous rock and roll and country musician died at 87. On Friday, Lewis’ publicist, Zach Farnum, confirmed the Hall of Famer’s passing. Lee leaves behind a rocky legacy some musicians can only dream of achieving.

As a singer, songwriter, and pianist, Lewis dazzled crowds with infectious energy and theatrical piano playing technique. On stage, Lewis appeared to merge with his instrument, becoming one with the music he loved to share with the world. Watching Lewis on stage, you’d think he was performing an exorcism on stage, as each note caused his bones to gyrate with rhythm. Famously known for his hit song “Great Balls of Fire,” Lewis dabbled in rockabilly, gospel, country, blues, and jazz. There was scarcely a genre Lewis wouldn’t explore, and he shined while creating unique soundscapes in all categories.

Lewis came onto the music scene in 1956 with a hit called “Crazy Arms.” Recorded at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, the track sold 300,000 copies, placing Lewis’ name on the map. Lewis was also a part of “The Million Dollar Quartet,” featuring legends Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Near the tail end of ’56, Lewis released “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls Of Fire.” Both songs were massive hits for Lewis, selling millions and making him a household name.

Lewis was riding high until the public caught wind of his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Gale Brown. Lewis’ popularity plummeted overnight, canceling a 71-date tour in the United Kingdom. Instead of slinking into the recesses of fame with his tail between his legs, Lewis kept making music, earning new fans with each track. Around 1968, Lewis pivoted to the country scene, releasing the hit “Another Place, Another Time,” landing him on the Billboard Country Music charts. Other songs in the genre followed, from “To Make Love Sweeter for You” to “There Must Be More To Love Than This,” “Would You Take Another Chance on Me,” and “Me and Bobby McGee.”

One of rock and roll’s more colorful figures, Lewis’ reputation became marred after various controversies. Not only did he shoot his bass player, but he also drove his car into Elvis’ Graceland gates, then started waving a gun around. There’s also the matter of Lewis’ wives, two of whom were found dead in questionable places. Lewis’s third wife floated to the top of the swimming pool, while the body of his fifth wife turned up in the bedroom of the musician’s Memphis home.

Lewis went on record saying he was uncertain of where he’d go after death finally came for him. He’d often think about his end at night, and those thoughts would follow him into sleep. In addition to experiencing problems with alcohol, Lewis was also constantly at war with the IRS. The agency came for Lewis at several points throughout his life, demanding money and sometimes seizing property. While Jerry Lee Lewis is a legend, his peers have found it difficult to celebrate his achievements because of all the controversy. Unsurprisingly, misgivings plagued even his recent induction into the Country Hall of Fame.

A film focusing on the life and career of Jerry Lee Lewis, starring Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder, was released in 1989. The film is directed by Jim McBride and stars Alec Baldwin, John Dee, Stephen Toblowsky, Trey Wilson, Lisa Blount, and Steve Allen.

Despite his trials and tribulations, we here at JoBlo would like to extend our condolences to Mr. Lewis’ family, friends, and fans. Rest well, Mr. Lewis.

Source: Deadline

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.