Jerry Lee Lewis, who vowed to play rock ‘n’ roll until he was damned, could soon be able to determine whether his worries were founded.
According to his publicist, Lewis passed away Friday at his home in Desoto County, Miss. He has been in ill health since he was 87.
Lewis, who went by the moniker “The Killer,” used to pound the piano like a lunatic and sported blond hair with a mind of its own.
The dynamic “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” and the frantic “Great Balls of Fire,” which opened with Lewis yelling, “You shake my nerves, and you rattle my brain/Too much-a love drive a man nuts,” are Lewis’ signature songs.
He also had hits with “Crazy Arms” and “Breathless.”
Lewis sang the title song on the back of a flatbed truck in the opening scene of the 1958 film “High School Confidential.”
Lewis was one of the late Roy Orbison’s Sun Records coworkers in the 1950s.
“Little Richard was fun, and Elvis was cool,” producer Don Dixon told NPR.
“Lewis was the most thrilling live performance I ever saw, including Elvis.” Lewis acknowledged in an interview from 1986 that he occasionally felt afraid of himself.
Lewis had an ego the size of his native Louisiana, battled alcohol and cocaine addiction, and was renowned for his impulsive and violent behavior.
He was expelled from the rock and roll world in late 1958, two years after he had ruled it, for marrying his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Gale.
His transformation into a country music star specializing in the whiskey-soaked cries of lonely men at the closing time took him over ten years.
Though he claimed he was still troubled by the thought of what any of this “worldly music” would do for his soul, he said he became as popular in the country as he had been in rock ‘n’ roll.