One of the last great pioneers of rock and roll, the American musician Jerry Lee Lewis, died at the age of 87, announced Friday October 28 his agent. Associated for eternity with the song Great Balls of Fireknown for his strong stage presence and dynamic style on the piano, rock legend from Louisiana, Jerry Lee Lewis died of natural causes, said the same source.
Both friend and rival of King Elvis Presley himself, Jerry Lee Lewis had influenced a whole generation of musicians, like Bruce Springsteen who said about him in 1995: “He doesn’t play rock’n’roll, he is rock’n’roll. » He was as famous for his hits as for the dramas and scandals that marked his existence.
The family farm mortgaged for a guitar
Born September 29, 1935 into a poor family in Ferriday, Louisiana, he discovered the piano at age 9 and his parents mortgaged the family farm to pay for his instrument. In 1956, he left for Memphis (Tennessee), the mecca of new American music, and was one of the first to sign with the famous label Sun Records.
His meeting, that same year, with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins gave birth to a legendary recording session known as the Million Dollar Quartet (“The Million Dollar Quartet”). In 1957, his first title, Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ onalready bears the mark of his disheveled style.
Great Balls of Fire
While rock is still in its infancy, crowds flock to see him ferociously pounding the keyboard with his fingers, elbows or feet, his hair swinging furiously to the frantic beat as he sends his stool flying in a wild dance step. .
Some months later, Great Balls of Firewhich will also be the title of a docu-drama on his life in 1989, propels him into the top of sales and makes him one of the most adored stars of the moment.
Scandal and boycott
A scandal erupts when the press discovers that his third wife, Myra Gale Brown, is his 13-year-old first cousin. American radio stations decided to boycott the singer, who fell out of favor for half a dozen years before resurfacing by abandoning rock for country music.
Whimsical and sometimes violent, Jerry Lee Lewis had a tormented relationship with alcohol and drugs which earned him serious health problems and as many problems with the police. But the legend does not weaken, on the contrary, and he is one of the first musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (rock hall of fame and museum, in Cleveland, Ohio), when it was founded in 1986.
He spent part of his last years on his ranch in Nesbit, Mississippi, with his seventh wife, and was still performing in early 2019. But, following a minor stroke in May of that year, he canceled concerts.