On Friday, 87-year-old rock star Jerry Lee Lewis died at his Memphis home after battling a nasty flu bug. Reports that he was ailing had surfaced, and TMZ had even reported his death days before he passed away. A statement was issued commemorating the singer’s life by spokeswoman Sujata Murthy who said:
“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.”
In the late 50s, Jerry Lee Lewis was a contender to fill Elvis’ large shoes after he was drafted into the Army.
But as it turned out, Lewis’s messy personal life affected his work. While he was touring England, the press found out that he was married to two women at the same time, and most damaging of all was that his second wife was also his 13- year-old cousin Myra Brown. His tour was subsequently canceled. He was also blacklisted from the radio, causing his earnings to shrivel overnight.
Brown divorced Lewis in the early 1970s, later alleging that she had been subjected to physical and mental abuse that almost drove her to commit suicide.
As the eulogies pour in, here's a friendly reminder that Jerry Lee Lewis was an abusive pedophile who married Myra Gale Brown, his 13-year-old cousin. When Brown filed for divorce, she stated that she had been "subject to every type of physical and mental abuse imaginable." pic.twitter.com/qICuFxg9FN
— Ellen Walker MA (RCA) (@EllenFWalker) October 28, 2022
Lewis was born in Ferriday, Louisiana. Son of bootlegger Elmo Lewis and cousin to TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and country star Mickey Gilley.
He learned to play guitar as a boy but longed for a piano, which was an instrument only owned by wealthier families at that time. According to Daily Mail, when his father pulled up in his truck one day and presented him with a dark wood, upright set of keyboards, his life changed.
‘My eyes almost fell out of my head,’ Lewis recalled in ‘Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story,’ written by Rick Bragg and published in 2014.
He played well immediately and was influenced by music ranging from gospel to boogie-woogie.
In the 1960s, Lewis rebranded himself as a country music singer, moving away from Rock and Roll. He won three Grammys and recorded with some of the industry’s greatest stars. In 2006, Lewis came out with ‘Last Man Standing,’ a recording featuring Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, B.B. King, and George Jones. In 2010, Lewis came out with ‘Mean Old Man’ and featured Jagger, Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow, Tim McGraw, and others.
Lewis was considered a rock pioneer.
— Variety (@Variety) October 28, 2022