- 28 Oct 22
There were rumours earlier this week of his demise, which were denied. But the news today is that the grim reaper has finally come for the man they called The Killer...
Jerry Lee Lewis has passed away at his home in Memphis, Tennessee aged 87. Widely regarded as one of the greatest of the original rock heroes, Jerry Lee Lewis was also one of the most controversial.
The news was confirmed today by his publicist, Zach Farnum.
"Lewis, perhaps the last true, great icon of the birth of rock 'n' roll, whose marriage of blues, gospel, country, honky-tonk and raw, pounding stage performances so threatened a young Elvis Presley that it made him cry, has died,” Farnum said.
"He was there at the beginning, with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and the rest, and watched them fade away one by one till it was him alone to bear witness and sing of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.”
Lewis was one of the infamous Million Dollar Quartet, a reference to the jam sessions at Sun Studios, involving Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee. Releasing his first album in 1958, he had dozens of hits – beginning with the classic ‘Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On’ in 1957, which went to No.3 in the Billboard charts in the US. That same year, he reached No.2 in the US with ‘Great Balls of Fire’ – which became his only UK No.1 hit.
He remained a huge country star, scoring six No.1 US country hits. And, of course, he was a huge live attraction, as people flocked to see one of the most incendiary performers in rock ’n’ roll history strut their stuff.
Hot Press remembers the surreally magic night in 1993 when he jammed in Dublin venue Bad Bob's with Ronnie Wood and Van Morrison. He'd earlier played a blistering gig in the former Mean Fiddler on Wexford Street.
In all he was married seven times, including two marriages which were defined as ‘bigamous’. His third marriage was to Myra Gale Brown, who was just 13 at the time (Jerry Lee was 22) – and was also his first cousin once removed. There were other controversies, with his fifth marriage to Shawn Stephens lasting just 77 days. The journalist Richard Ben Kramer accused Lewis of being responsible for her death, but this was never proven, nor was Lewis charged.
He had six children in all, one of whom – Steven Allen Lewis – drowned in a swimming pool at the age of three, while Jerry Lee Lewis Jnr. died in a car crash in 1973, at the age of 19.
Tributes have been pouring in from international heavyweights like Ringo Starr, Gene Simmons, Elton John, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Daniels and such Irish admirers as Fiachna O Braonain and Cait O'Riordain. The Rory Gallagher estate has also paid tribute, reminding us in the process that Rory worked with The Killer in 1973.
RIP Jerry Lee Lewis.
Rory on working Jerry Lee in 1973: "Meeting certain rock & roll legends, they’re a pale imitation of their stage image or their legend is a kind of a dull version of it but Jerry Lee was almost 99% full technicolour!" #jerryleelewis pic.twitter.com/Ounv11Ry8O
— Rory Gallagher (@rorygallagher) October 28, 2022
Without Jerry Lee Lewis, I wouldn’t have become who I am today. He was groundbreaking and exciting, and he pulverized the piano. A brilliant singer too. Thank you for your trailblazing inspiration and all the rock ‘n’ roll memories. #RIP pic.twitter.com/HytKkIV5Qo
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) October 28, 2022
God bless Jerry lee Lewis peace and love to all his family Ringo. 😎✌️🌟❤️🎵💕☮️ pic.twitter.com/5tG54Der07
— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) October 28, 2022
Mom and I are sad to hear about the passing of “The Killer” @jerryleelewis.Thankfully he lived to receive his recent @countrymusichof induction medallion. Prayers to his family and many fans. - CD, Jr. and Hazel Daniels pic.twitter.com/wC9SxfXdwO
— Charlie Daniels (@CharlieDaniels) October 28, 2022
— Ronnie Wood (@ronniewood) October 28, 2022
Sadly, One of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll has passed. A rebel to the end. RIP, Jerry Lee Lewis.….Jerry Lee Lewis, Influential and Condemned Rock & Roll Pioneer, Dead – Rolling Stone https://t.co/ooKDLm4skX
— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) October 28, 2022
“You can tell ‘em I played the piano and sang rock ‘n’ roll” 💚 What a life - I was lucky enough to meet Jerry Lee Lewis once, he was smoking a cigar & I told him he shouldn't, "they're bad for you" - bahahahhhaaa! Rest In Peace you crazy King 💚 pic.twitter.com/JvmXfY1h4Z
— Cáit O'Riordan (@rockyoriordan) October 28, 2022
RIP Jerry Lee Lewis….
Blessed to have twanged some guitar with you in the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin many years ago…
Thanks to Julian Lloyd for capturing us backstage afterwards… @jerryleelewis #killer #greatballsoffire #lastmanstanding #rip pic.twitter.com/5D9MknzNpd
— Fiachna Ó Braonáin (@fobraonain) October 28, 2022
RIP Jerry Lee Lewis. The Killer has gone. He could play that piano, boy. Think I gotta play me some Lewis Boogie.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 28, 2022
— Pat Carty (@Pat_Carty) October 28, 2022
- 13 Sep 23