Singer Jerry Lee Lewis dies aged 87
Jerry Lee Lewis, the notorious singer behind Great Balls of Fire, has died aged 87, his agent has confirmed.
One of the last survivors of rock ‘n’ roll’s golden age, his life was also marred by scandal and violence.
His career was briefly halted when, aged 22, he married his 13-year-old cousin Myra Gale Brown.
Lewis’s agent described him as “perhaps the last true, great icon of the birth of rock’n’roll”.
In a statement, Lewis’s publicist Zach Farnum said: “He was there at the beginning, with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and the rest, and watched them fade away one by one till it was him alone to bear witness, and sing of the birth of rock’n’roll.”
Lewis passed away at his home in Desoto County, Mississippi, with his seventh wife, Judith, by his side, his publicist said.
Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones led the tributes to Lewis, tweeting: “R.I.P. JLL the KILLER – What a man.”
DJ Tony Blackburn added: “Jerry Lee Lewis has passed away, he was a great showman and gave us some great songs. R.I.P.”
The Country Music Association tweeted: “It is with great sadness we’ve learned about the passing of Jerry Lee Lewis, who was just inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this month.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Born in 1935 in Ferriday, Louisiana, Lewis later moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he found work as a studio musician for Sun Studios.
He made his performing debut aged 14, and through his childhood developed his love of boogie-woogie and blues by sneaking into a Ferriday nightclub that featured the era’s best blues musicians.
Myra Gale Brown, Lewis’ cousin and the daughter of his bass player at the time, was only 13 in 1957 when she married the singer, who was then 22.
She claimed on the marriage licence to be 20 and the controversy of their marriage brought Lewis’s career to a halt.
Lewis ended up in jail in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1976 after he was found brandishing a pistol and demanding to see Elvis Presley outside Presley’s Graceland mansion.
Earlier that year, Lewis had accidentally shot his bass player.