Jerry Lee Lewis, original wild man of rock ‘n’ roll, dies at 87
Updated 10:08 pm EDT, Friday, June 22, 2019
Jerome “Jerry Lee” Lewis Jr. performs in 2010 with his band, the Wild Boyz. He is seen here in 2005, on the set of his concert at the Roseland Ballroom in Chicago. Credit: Associated Press
Jerry Lee Lewis, the wild boy of rock ‘n’ roll, died Friday at age 87.
“In one of the finest moments of his career, he delivered one of the most transcendent songs of his life for his final performance,” Lewis’ publicist said in a statement. “This was Jerry’s final show, a moment he believed would never come again. We are grateful to have shared this extraordinary life and legacy.”
Lewis made his breakthrough as a country singer with “Great Balls of Fire,” a huge hit in 1972. He’d later go on to write hits for Bob Dylan and James Brown, and sang backup for James Brown and Tina Turner.
“There’s nobody I’d rather be than I’m just sitting right here,” Lewis said at one of his concerts in 1978. “I look at you, look at me; I’m in the same position” on stage with his guitar and singing.
Lewis earned his nickname as a child star. He was once chased by a crowd who had mistaken him for a ghost and chased him all the way to the school playground.
Lewis was born in Chicago on Feb. 23, 1937, as the oldest of five children to the Reverend Jerry Lee Lewis Sr. and Mary Elizabeth Smith. He had an older sister and a younger brother, while his five children from his first marriage to Helen Evans were from a previous marriage.
His father was a pastor at Ebenezer, a church at the intersection of Chicago’s Oakley and Wabash streets. Lewis was baptized by his father at the age of four. His father died