Rock and roll icon Jerry Lee Lewis has died, aged 87

28 October 2022, 18:12 | Updated: 10 January 2024, 12:29

Jerry Lee Lewis in 1957
Jerry Lee Lewis in 1957. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Jerry Lee Lewis, the rock and roll star behind hits like 'Great Balls of Fire' has died at the age of 87.

The rock music icon was one of the infamous figures in showbiz, and was known for his energetic performances and piano skills.

His death at the age of 87 was confirmed by his publicist.

Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the leading stars of the rock and roll movement of the 1950s.

Born in Louisiana in 1935, he was the son of a poor farming family who had to mortgage their home to buy Jerry his first piano.

His first performance at the age of 14 came at the opening of a car dealership. He soon crafted a raucous style that was perfect for rock and roll, and he ended up playing at Sun Studios in Memphis.

His earliest recordings were made in 1956 alongside Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, a group later described as the 'Million Dollar Quartet'.

1957, Memphis, Jerry Lee Lewis
1957, Memphis, Jerry Lee Lewis. Picture: Getty

Lewis had his breakthrough in 1957 with 'Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On', followed by the international hit 'Great Balls of Fire'.

He caused a huge scandal in 1958, when during a 1958 UK tour it was revealed he had married his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Brown, the third of his seven marriages.

Radio stations and concert promoters soon blacklisted him, and his popularity faded over time.

Despite various controversies, he changed style to country music after rock and roll died down. In 1986, he was one of the first 10 performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry among others.

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