The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has paid tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis and his “rock and roll swagger” after losing its last inductee.
Lewis was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986, joining groundbreaking performers such as Chuck Berry, James Brown, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley.
Nicknamed The Killer, the US musician was known for his music as well as his controversial personal life.
His hits “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire” set the tone and spirit of youth culture. Jerry Lee was a true pioneer and his music and rock and roll swagger will live on forever. pic.twitter.com/Os9NND2WS3
— Rockhall (@rockhall) October 28, 2022
He died at the age of 87 at his home in DeSoto County, Mississippi, south of Memphis, with his wife Judith, his publicist said Friday.
Following the news, other music big names also paid tribute to Lewis, including Sir Elton John, Sir Ringo Starr, Ronnie Wood and Don McLean.
The official Hall of Fame stated that the musician’s hits “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls Of Fire” “became the foundations of the sound and spirit of youth culture.”
“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has lost its last inductee,” the organization tweeted.
“Jerry Lee Lewis sang frenziedly, played the piano, and set the world on fire with his inspiring performances and rebellious personality.
“His hits ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire’ set the tone and spirit of youth culture.
“Jerry Lee was a true pioneer and his music and rock ‘n’ roll swagger will live on forever.”
Paying tribute to the musician, Sir Elton said:
The veteran musician, who previously cited Lewis as influencing his love of the piano, adds:
“You’re also a great singer. Thank you for your pioneering inspiration and rock ‘n’ roll memories.”
Wood also paid tribute to Lewis with a series of photos of him with the deceased musician.
The Rolling Stones guitarist captioned the Twitter post: “RIP JLL the Killer- what a man.”
Meanwhile, Lord Ringo of The Beatles tweeted: “God bless Jerry Lee Lewis. Love and peace to his whole family.”
American pie singer McLean said: silence. they have a session…
“The next day the musicians came to the session and they all brought guns. That was Jerry Lee.”
Born in Feriday, Louisiana in 1935, Lewis later moved to Memphis, Tennessee and found work as a studio musician at Sun Studios.
While working for The Sun, he and Carl Perkins jammed with Presley and Johnny Cash in a session later called performed by the “Million Dollar Quartet”.
Emerging as one of rock music’s earliest showmen in the 1950s, his music hit the pop, country and R&B charts.
He also became known for his famous stage antics, such as playing standing up and occasionally setting a piano on fire.
However, his status collapsed in 1958 after the press learned that he had married his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Gale Brown, while on tour in England.
His tour was canceled, he was blacklisted from radio, and his income dropped to practically zero overnight.
In the decades that followed, Lewis struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, legal battles, physical illness, and numerous divorces.
— Ronnie Wood (@ronniewood) October 28, 2022
Lewis reinvented himself as a country performer in the 1960s, and the music industry seemed to have forgiven him for his renewed prominence.
In 1989, just a few years after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his service to the recording industry.
The musician has also received many accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame earlier this year.
For Last Man Standing, released in 2006, Lewis enlisted the help of fans like Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Buddy Guy.
His last album was a gospel record with cousin and lifelong televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who preached against his music in his youth.
God bless Jerry Lee Lewis 😎✌️🌟❤️🎵💕☮️ pic.twitter.com/5tG54Der07
— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) October 28, 2022
In announcing his passing, his publicist Zach Farnham said: A young Elvis Presley’s performance threatened him to tears before he died.
“He was there first, with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, etc. and watched them disappear one by one. And he alone came to testify. Let’s sing the birth of rock’n’roll.”
The musician suffered various illnesses and injuries in the last years of his life, and doctors often told him they should have taken him in decades earlier.
He added that Lewis’ wife Judith said “he is ready to leave” shortly before his death.
His death was falsely reported on Thursday before Lewis’ representatives confirmed he was still alive.
Lewis is survived by his seventh wife, Judith Coghlan Lewis, and children Jerry Lee Lewis III, Ronnie Lewis, Phoebe Lewis, and Lori Lancaster.