Jerry Lee Lewis was a stage icon, but his personal life was marred by a scandal involving an underage marriage, as well as drug and alcohol problems.
Jerry Lee Lewis, best known for his 1957 song Great Balls of Fire, passed away at the age of 87.
Lewis died at home in Memphis, Tennessee, according to his reps.
The Killer, a rock and roll pioneer renowned for the song Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, was the final survivor of a group of innovative performers that included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard.
He was once referred to as “a one-man rush.” Chairs were thrown at him during a 1957 TV program performance of Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.
“Rockabilly was present. Elvis was present. But there was no true rock ‘n’ roll prior to Jerry Lee Lewis’s entrance “He famously said after the show about himself.
He became famous for his stage antics, such as standing up to play the piano and even setting it on fire on occasion.
His personal life, however, was marred by controversy.
He was a contender to replace Elvis Presley as rock’s number one for a brief period in 1958 after Elvis was inducted into the army.
But, while Lewis was on tour in England, the press found he was married to Myra Gale Brown, a 13-year-old (maybe even 12-year-old). He was still married to his prior wife, and she was his cousin.
His tour was canceled, he was blacklisted on the radio, and his revenues were reduced to almost nothing overnight.
When asked about the marriage, Lewis told the Wall Street Journal in 2014, “I definitely would have rearranged my life a little bit differently, but I never did hide anything from anyone.” “I merely went about my business as normal.”
Lewis, who was married seven times, struggled with drug and alcohol misuse, legal problems, and physical disease for the next several decades.
Brown divorced him in the early 1970s, claiming physical and mental abuse that nearly pushed her to suicide.
“I’d definitely be dead by now if I was still married to Jerry,” she told People magazine in 1989.
In the 1960s, Lewis rebuilt himself as a country musician, and the music industry eventually forgave him.
He received three Grammy nominations and worked with some of the industry’s biggest names, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow, and Tim McGraw.
Lewis had six kids. One son, Steve Allen Lewis, drowned in a swimming pool when he was three years old in 1962, and another, Jerry Lee Jr, died in a traffic accident when he was 19 years old in 1973.
Among those who paid tribute to the singer was Elton John, who described him as a “trailblazing influence.”
The veteran musician, who has previously credited Lewis as an inspiration for his love of the piano, posted a snapshot of the two on Instagram.
He stated: “I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for Jerry Lee Lewis.
“He was revolutionary and vibrant, and he pulverized the piano.
“He’s also a fantastic singer. Thank you for being a trailblazer and for all the rock and roll memories.”
“It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Jerry Lee Lewis, who was just inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this month,” the Country Music Association tweeted.