Rock and roll great Jerry Lee Lewis, known for hits like “Great Balls of Fire,” “Crazy Arms” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” died Friday at the age of 87, his representative said.
“Judith, his seventh wife, was by his side when he passed away at his home in Desoto County, Mississippi, south of Memphis,” Zach Farnum said in a statement. “He told her, in his final days, that he welcomed the hereafter, and that he was not afraid.”
Lewis’ death had been wrongly reported earlier this week by TMZ.
The singer and pianist was known as The Killer for the way he slayed his audiences.
He also frequently courted controversy, from getting arrested outside of Graceland while attempting to shoot Elvis to frequent issues with the IRS to the fact that, when he was 22, he married his 13-year-old third cousin. The marriage, when exposed, jeopardized his career and his public standing. Ultimately, he would recover, professionally (on the personal side of things, he would marry seven times.)
His turbulent life was the subject of 1989’s “Great Balls of Fire,” directed by Jim McBride and starring Dennis Quaid, in an electric performance, as Lewis. Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin and Stephen Tobolowsky also starred.
Described as a rockabilly pioneer, whose sound liberally mixed rock and roll with country and western, Lewis won four Grammys (including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award) and was inducted, way back in 1986, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In his later years, he was plagued with health issues, including a stroke that Lee suffered in 2019.