Rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis has passed away. Publicist Jack Farnum confirmed Lewis died October 28th, after TMZ mistakenly reported his death on the 26th. Best known for popularizing rock music with songs like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” the prolific pianist leaves behind popular hits, but a legacy of very questionable decisions.
In 1957, Lewis married Myra Gale Brown, his 13-year-old, once-removed cousin, and daughter of his bassist J.W. Brown. Lewis was 22, and the marriage was kept secret. After letting slip to a reporter they were married, his career began a sharp downward spiral. Though Lewis fibbed about Brown’s age, claiming she was 15, it didn’t stick. Lewis was awash in negative publicity. They divorced in 1970.
Despite never quite reaching the same heights prior to his marital taboo, Lewis became one of the first performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He kicked the long-standing tradition of a jam session following the induction ceremony. A recipient of the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, and also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Lewis has left his mark on history.
His exit from the mortal coil was unfortunately not a comfortable one. Lewis “suffered through the last years of his life from various illnesses and injuries that, his physicians have often said, should have taken him decades ago.” according to his obit written by musician Rick Bragg. Lewis died in his home in Desoto County, Mississippi, at the age of 87.