Ferriday rock’n’roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis died on Friday at his home in DeSoto County, Miss., south of Memphis. He was 87.
His death was announced by his publicist, Zach Farnum. No cause was given, but Lewis had been in poor health for some time.
“I can’t believe my big brother is gone, my world will never be the same again,” Linda Gail Lewis Braddock posted on her social media page. “From the first moment I opened my eyes he’s been my protector and inspiration. As a child I grew up watching him play piano in our house and developing his distinctive piano and vocal style that would change the world only a few years later. Jerry is the one that first took me into the studio, made me sing my first notes and record my first record at 15, 'Seasons of my Heart', as a duet with him. I owe him my entire career and my life to him! Every unforgettable experience, every song we sang together, every stage we shared on the road for over two decades will never be forgotten by me, and hopefully not anyone that was there.
"The world has lost a light that we’ve been blessed with for 87 years. I hope, in my own humble way, I can keep my brother’s memory alive and as long as I can breathe, every breathe will be a tribute to his legacy, the greatest piano player, singer and brother the world has ever known. God bless you Jerry Lee Lewis, I love you !”
Lewis, Mickey Gilley, Jimmy Swaggart and Leon "Pee Wee" Whitaker were the original members of the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame, being inducted in 2002.
Gilley died on May 7 of this year.
Lewis made his first recordings in 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis. "Crazy Arms" sold 300,000 copies in the South, but it was his 1957 hit "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" that shot Lewis to fame worldwide. He followed this with the major hits "Great Balls of Fire", "Breathless", and "High School Confidential".
Lewis' 1964 live album Live at the Star Club, Hamburg is regarded by many music journalists and fans in general as one of the wildest and greatest live rock albums ever. In 1968, Lewis made a transition into country music and had hits with songs such as "Another Place, Another Time". This reignited his career, and throughout the late 1960s and 1970s he regularly topped the country-western charts; throughout his seven-decade career, Lewis had 30 songs reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Country and Western Chart. His No. 1 country hits included "To Make Love Sweeter for You", "There Must Be More to Love Than This", "Would You Take Another Chance on Me" and "Me and Bobby McGee".
Lewis's successes continued throughout the decades and he embraced his rock and roll past with songs such as a cover of The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" and Mack Vickery's "Rockin' My Life Away". In the 21st century, Lewis continued to tour around the world and released new albums. His 2006 album Last Man Standing was his bestselling release, with over a million copies sold worldwide. This was followed by Mean Old Man in 2010, which received some of the best sales of Lewis's career.
Lewis had a dozen gold records in both rock and country. He won four Grammy awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards. Lewis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and his pioneering contribution to the genre was recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2022. In 1989, his life was chronicled in the movie Great Balls of Fire, starring Dennis Quaid. In 2003, Rolling Stone listed his box set All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology number 242 on their list of "500 Greatest Albums of All Time"
In 2004, they ranked him No. 24 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Lewis was the last surviving member of Sun Records' Million Dollar Quartet and the album Class of '55, which also included Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Elvis Presley.