Newest Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Jerry Lee Lewis died at the age of 87. Lewis, also known as “The Killer,” a rock and country music pioneer, died Friday, Oct. 28 at his home near Memphis, Tennessee.
An avant-garde pianist, Lewis helped popularize rockabilly and rock and roll with a series of hits in 1957 and 1958, beginning with the crossover hit “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”, followed by “Breathless”, ” High School Confidential” and in particular “Great Balls of Fire” which made him as important a member of the famous Sun Studios sound as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins (together known as the Million Dollar Quartet). “You Win Again” helped give Lewis four Top 5 country songs (and two No. 1 hits) in a row. He was a real superstar.
“Jerry Lee doesn’t come on stage and politely thank an audience for being there,” Hank Williams Jr. said at the 2022 medal ceremony. “Jerry Lee doesn’t ask for your attention. He demands it. He does not go on stage, he commands it.”
By 1968, Lewis had come back strong with 11 consecutive Top 10 records that would take him into the mid-’70s. “Chantilly Lace”, “There Must Be More to Love Than This” and “What Made Milwaukee Famous” were three of his No. 1 songs, and he would continue to chart in the early 80s.
Lewis went on to record dozens of subsequent albums, and in 1986 he became one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After the ceremony, he is credited with initiating impromptu jam sessions, which have become a Hall tradition.
Lewis is also a recipient of the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lewis is survived by his wife Judith and four surviving children, as well as his extended family. Services will be announced in the coming days. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations in Lewis’ honor to the Arthritis Foundation or MusiCares.
Other artists and colleagues remember Jerry Lee Lewis…
“It’s so sad to hear that Jerry Lee Lewis has passed away. I’ve loved him since I first met and worked with him in the early 1970s. He was definitely unique in his kind as an artist and a person.”
— Crystal Gayle
“I first met Jerry Lee Lewis with my brother Lefty in the late 50’s on a TV set they were filming and got to hear him sing ‘Great Balls Of Fire’…then years later when I was recording in California in the early 80’s (on a night off) we went to the Palamino Club to see Jerry’s show (that’s the night my wife and I met ) and we were able to visit him briefly. Over the next few years, we had the opportunity to do a lot of shows together. We were so proud that he had just been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
‘Say hello to paradise’ Jerry Lee ❤️”
“Jerry Lee at the start of a session put his gun on the piano.
They do the session…
The next day, the musicians come to the session and all bring their weapons.
It was Jerry Lee.
“The image and influence of Jerry Lee Lewis is an iconic memory that we will always have. As a musician/singer, I loved his energy and style. He was the greatest!”
“I went to Jerry Lee Lewis singing school. His style was one of my biggest influences. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? I will truly miss this man. He was a supreme and sublime book. As he used to say, “Think about it!” Condolences to his survivors. RIP Daddy-O!!”
— T. Graham Brown
“Jerry Lee Lewis has passed away… REST EASY KILLER you were one of a kind…”
–Joe Bonsall / The Boys of Oak Ridge
“Jerry Lee was a lot like Rod Stewart: when he took the stage to perform, he OWNED it! He will be missed.”
— Lacy J. Dalton
“I grew up listening to Jerry Lee Lewis. You hear his piano style that was heavily integrated with my own piano style. I loved the way he moved on stage and I love his shenanigans. He was a real artist, and I’m so grateful that he’s still alive to accept and understand that he made it all the way to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“Anyone who knows me knows that my #1 musical influence is Elton John. Well, Elton learned to play rock and roll piano by listening to Jerry Lee Lewis, making him (unbeknownst to me) one of MY He showed the that you didn’t have to sit still when the mind was moving and you could spread the piano stool out of the way, stand up and go wild during a song, or sit still and use your right foot on the keyboard. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet them both and say thank you for the music”.
— Rusty Gold
“Today music has lost one of its icons. Watching the killer on stage was like attending a master class in how to entertain an audience. No one could follow him and no one will. never !”
–Heath Wright / RICOCHET
“The last time I saw Jerry was at the Diamond Festival in Belgium, where we were both honoured. Jerry was in rare shape. He made a big mark in the music industry and he Will definitely be remembered and missed.
— Legendary Soul Man Sam Moore
“I am deeply saddened to learn that my friend and one of the world’s greatest talents, Jerry Lee Lewis, has gone home. I was privileged and blessed to have known him. Performing and singing with him on records are moments I will cherish forever. The Million Dollar Quartet is reunited in heaven once again and I’m sure God will love to hear them sing. RIP my friend.
“One of my favorite days was when we spent time in the studio with Jerry Lee watching him and my husband TG Sheppard sing a song we wrote for him (with Bobby Tomberlin) called ‘The Killer.’ arrived a little late which added to the anticipation but when he arrived you knew you were in the presence of greatness he was so amazing and larger than life there will never be one another like him and he will be truly missed.
“Jerry Lee Lewis was a huge inspiration to us all. Great artist and one of the biggest stars the music industry has ever known. RIP to an American legend and icon.”
– Shane Owens
“So heartbreaking to hear of the passing of the one and only Jerry Lee Lewis. I remember singing ‘Great Balls of Fire’ as the icon ripped through the piano and this song like a whirlwind. There will be none. never another like him… but the world will always appreciate what he left behind. Rest easy Mr Lewis”
“I just learned of the death of Jerry Lee Lewis – one of the pioneers of rock and roll. My cousin Guy used to tour with him and he told me so much about the artist he was. He could make the keys of a piano speak.He had such a unique style that could not be matched.Prayers to his family during this time.
“I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of Jerry Lewis. His brand of wild Memphis rock ‘n’ roll piano and electric vocals set the tone for generations to come. His impact is felt in every style of today. He is an undeniable legend and I will miss him.
“I think it’s safe to say that if you’re an artist or a musician, you’ve most likely been influenced by Jerry Lee Lewis. He was a legendary artist and raised the bar of a singer/pianist. He was one of the greatest artists of all time. and will be greatly missed but his legacy will live on forever.”
“Jerry Lee Lewis was a true entertainer in every sense of the word. From his rock hits to his sweet country twang, Jerry Lee always gave his all to every fan in his presence. He certainly left big shoes to fill and, to in my opinion, has set the bar at an unattainable height for those to follow in the years to come.RIP Killer”