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Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis

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I Am What I Am ... This unique rockumentary features classic performances and Jerry Lee's biggest... more info $10.95was $14.99 Buy Now

Also Known As: Died:
Born: September 29, 1935 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Ferriday, Louisiana, USA Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

hed and burned upon release, alienating what few diehard fans Lewis had left. The sole high point of the late 1970s was the single "Middle Age Crazy," a weary acknowledgement that Lewis had somehow survived his wild youth, but arrived on the doorstop of his forties depleted of energy and hope. Perhaps sensing that Lewisâ¿¿s best years were now behind him, Mercury pulled the plug on his contract.Lewis drifted through the 1980s, showing occasional signs of inspiration. 1978â¿¿s Jerry Lee Lewis featured his last hit of the decade, a sprightly Sun-styled number called "Rocking My Life Away," and an elegiac take on "Over the Rainbow" that many felt was his best work in decades. The album was a hit, but it was soon forgotten in a dust cloud of overwrought follow-up sessions and albums. Labels like Elektra and MCA would pick him up for a while, generate a few records, then realize that Lewis was simply too erratic to produce consistent material. On stage, he continued to show flashes of greatness, but for every performance that signaled a return to prominence, there were flat, lifeless concerts that suggested Lewis was simply counting the minutes until his curtain closer. Occasionally, they felt like...

hed and burned upon release, alienating what few diehard fans Lewis had left. The sole high point of the late 1970s was the single "Middle Age Crazy," a weary acknowledgement that Lewis had somehow survived his wild youth, but arrived on the doorstop of his forties depleted of energy and hope. Perhaps sensing that Lewisâ¿¿s best years were now behind him, Mercury pulled the plug on his contract.

Lewis drifted through the 1980s, showing occasional signs of inspiration. 1978â¿¿s Jerry Lee Lewis featured his last hit of the decade, a sprightly Sun-styled number called "Rocking My Life Away," and an elegiac take on "Over the Rainbow" that many felt was his best work in decades. The album was a hit, but it was soon forgotten in a dust cloud of overwrought follow-up sessions and albums. Labels like Elektra and MCA would pick him up for a while, generate a few records, then realize that Lewis was simply too erratic to produce consistent material. On stage, he continued to show flashes of greatness, but for every performance that signaled a return to prominence, there were flat, lifeless concerts that suggested Lewis was simply counting the minutes until his curtain closer. Occasionally, they felt like schizophrenic monologues between the disparate elements of Lewisâ¿¿ personality, with raunchy takes on "Big Legged Woman" followed by a terse self-scolding, or a lengthy diatribe on the ills of drink coming before a romp through "Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee." Off stage, life was no better. The Internal Revenue Service claimed nearly all of his possessions in 1978 over failure to pay back taxes, and Lewisâ¿¿ drug consumption ran unabated, thanks in no small part to the supervision of Dr. George Nichopolous, the infamous "Dr. Nick" who oversaw Elvis Presleyâ¿¿s own prodigious appetite for prescription pills.

In 1986, he re-teamed with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison on Class of â¿¿55, a tribute to Elvis Presley that featured Lewis on a somewhat predatory cover of "Sixteen Candles." By this point, Lewisâ¿¿s catalog was, like many established artists whose work had been lumped into the radio subgenre of "oldies," a staple of movie soundtracks, commercials and sporting events. Children reveled in the carefree abandon of "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakinâ¿¿ Goinâ¿¿ On," blissfully unaware that their grandparents had considered it to be a sign of complete cultural collapse. Lewis had become, in a word, respectable. It seemed high time for a serious re-examination of his career and its impact on American culture. Unfortunately, what fans got was "Great Balls of Fire" (1989). A shallow, by-the-numbers biopic based on Myra Gale Brownâ¿¿s autobiography of the same name, the Jim McBride film captured the explosive quality of Lewisâ¿¿ music and performances, largely because Lewis himself re-recorded his greatest hits for the soundtrack. But the film, which starred Dennis Quaid in a buffoonish turn as Lewis and Winona Ryder as Brown, focused on the cruder aspects of the singerâ¿¿s personality without delving into his complex and often tortured psyche. Lewis himself immediately distanced himself from the project, citing it as exaggerated and spiteful.

To the surprise of many, Lewis remained active and visible for the next three decades. He was among the freshman class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and began working on new music, most notably the song "It Was the Whiskey Talking, Not Me," which turned up on the soundtrack for Warren Beatty⿿s "Dick Tracy" (1990). Five years later, Young Blood, his first album of new material in over a half decade, was released to modest acclaim. Fin-de-siècle accolades began to pour in, including a Lifetime Achievement award from The Recording Academy, but as the Killer eased into his sixth and seventh decades, there was an apparent need to chase the dream one more time. In 2006, he released Last Man Standing, an impressive collection of duets with established music stars ranging from Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger to Eric Clapton and George Jones. The disc was the highest-selling album of Lewis⿿s career, achieving gold status, and topping several charts for an impressive stint. Two years later, he returned to England for the 50th anniversary of the tour that sunk his career in the 1950s. And in 2009, the 60th anniversary of his live debut as a performer, he released Mean Old Man, another album of duets, while capping the year by opening the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame⿿s 25th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden. Even in his older years, Lewis still managed to make heads turn for his shocking romantic entanglements. On March 9, 2012, the rock-n-roll icon married Judith Brown, the ex-wife of Lewis⿿ second cousin, Rusty Brown. Incidentally, Rusty was also the brother of Lewis⿿ third wife Myra Gale Brown.ld Jerry Lee Lewis fire could be clearly heard on two live albums, Live at the Star-Club (1964) and The Greatest Live Show on Earth (1964). Both captured the intensity of Lewis on stage as he tore through his best known material as well as choice covers. Star-Club would later be regarded as one of the best live albums in rock and roll history.

In 1968, Lewisâ¿¿ main producer at Star, Jerry Kennedy, urged him to consider focusing his attention on country music. It was a viable option for many â¿¿50s-era rockers from the South like Lewis, as singers like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and other Sun veterans had settled comfortably into the country fold after losing ground in the pop and rock markets. Lewis wisely agreed to the move, and found himself in the midst of a respectable string of hits that included a bonafide chart-topper, 1969â¿¿s "To Make Love Sweeter for You," as well as the Top 10 hits "Another Place, Another Time," "What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)" and many more. Lewis also turned heads by playing Iago in a rock and roll version of Shakespeareâ¿¿s "Othello" called "Catch My Soul." By all accounts, Lewisâ¿¿s performance in the play was done with sincerity, and audiences flocked to see the curious union of the Bard of Avon and the Ferriday Fireball.

As Lewis entered the 1970s, the upturn of his commercial fortunes was in direct opposition to the misery of his personal life. His alcohol and drug consumption had grown steadily over time, and now hampered his ability to work consistently in the studio. His marriage to Myra unraveled in 1970, the same year his beloved and feared mother, Mamie, passed away. In private, he told confidantes that his motherâ¿¿s death was a direct result of his drug issues and his musical choices. In December of that year, he announced that he was renouncing his sinful ways and devoting his life to gospel music. But Mercury, which had picked up Lewisâ¿¿ contract after his spate of â¿¿60s hits, had little use for the material and refused to release them. He soon returned to middle-of-the-road country, scoring hits with a cover of Kris Kristoffersonâ¿¿s "Me and Bobby McGee," among others.

The remainder of the 1970s was a blur of botched recordings and personal disasters. He split from his fourth wife, Jaren Pate, and his son, Jerry Lee Lewis Jr. â¿¿ whose battles with drugs echoed that of his father â¿¿ died in a car crash. Lewis himself was missing session dates because of his substance issues, and was hospitalized on several occasions. In 1981, he nearly died as a result of bleeding ulcers. The nadir of this period was either an arrest in front of Graceland, where Lewis was calling for Presley while carrying a firearm, or the shooting of his bassist, Bob Owens, in what Lewisâ¿¿ handlers called an accident. His career was in dire starts as well. An attempt at bringing Lewis together with top London musicians, including Peter Frampton and Rory Gallagher, failed to gel, as did "Southern Roots," collaboration with infamous New Orleans producer Huey Meaux that was recorded under chaotic conditions. It cras

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll! (1987) Himself
2.
 American Hot Wax (1978) Himself
4.
 Keep on Rockin' (1972)
5.
 High School Confidential! (1958) Himself
6.
 Jamboree! (1957)
8.
 Jimmy Swaggart: Fire and Brimstone (2001) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Learned to play the piano at the age of nine
1949:
Made his performance debut at a Ford dealership in Ferriday, LA
1956:
Recorded four demos for Sun Studios, including "Crazy Arms" and "End of the Road"
1956:
Backed Carl Perkins on a run of recordings that were visited by labelmates Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley; producer Sam Phillips kept the tape rolling on the impromptu jam session, later dubbed "The Million Dollar Quartet"
1957:
Recorded his first hit, a cover of "Whole Lotta Shakin¿ Goin¿ On"
1957:
Released breakthrough single "Great Balls of Fire"
1957:
Took a career misstep after secretly marrying Myra Gale Brown, his 13-year-old first cousin once removed who was ten years his junior; scandal broke the following year
1957:
Made his "American Bandstand" (ABC) debut
1958:
Performed the title song to the crime drama "High School Confidential"; appeared in film
1961:
Returned to the charts with a cover of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say"
1964:
Released the live albums <i>Live at the Star Club, Hamburg</i> and <i>The Greatest Live Show on Earth</i>
1969:
Turned to the country music genre and released the hit "To Make Love Sweeter for You"
1972:
Recorded a cover of Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace," which went to No. 1 on the Hot Country SIngles chart and landed in the top 50 on the U.S. pop charts
1986:
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Lewis was an inaugural inductee along with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Ray Charles
1986:
Recorded <i>Class of '55</i> along with Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins; album considered a follow-up to "The Million Dollar Quartet" session
1989:
Portrayed by Dennis Quaid in the biographical drama "Great Balls of Fire!"; Lewis re-recorded his classic hits for the film's soundtrack
2005:
Received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
2006:
Released the album <i>Last Man Standing</i>; featured duets with Bruce Springsteen, Little Richard, and Willie Nelson, among others
2009:
Opened the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
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