Jerry Lee Lewis, born on September 29, 1935, was a legendary singer, songwriter, and pianist. He is known to be one of the most influential pianists of the 20th century, in which his distinct piano playing became his signature style on stage, T.V., and in films. In 1956, he began his career and delivered many hits in the Rock ‘n’ Roll industry. He released 44 albums ― 40 studio and four solo collections, including 10 collaborations. Lewis received a plethora of accolades. Let’s celebrate this iconic musician’s birthday right here!
Jerry Lee Lewis was a celebrated singer, songwriter, and pianist, known for his many successful, hit songs. The pianist was born on September 29, 1935, in Ferriday, Concordia Parish. As a child, he was always fascinated with music; he gave his first live performance in 1949, at 14 years.
In 1956, Lewis auditioned for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, and started recording with them. He was a solo artist and a session musician for other artists with Sun Records. He was known for his prolific piano playing. In 1957, Lewis’ career as a soloist took off when he released songs like ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ the latter of which was one of his biggest hits. While on stage, he would push the piano bench aside and play the piano standing, sometimes hitting the keys with his heels. At the end of the ‘60s, Lewis recorded the country album “Another Place, Another Time” (1968), which shot up in the charts.
Between 1968 and 1977, Lewis released 17 singles that were part of the Billboard top 10 country chart, with four topping the list. In 1979, he launched the album “Jerry Lee Lewis,” which was critically acclaimed. In 1986, he became one of the first to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1989, Lewis re-recorded all his songs for the soundtrack of “Great Balls of Fire!” ―a movie loosely based on his life, where Dennis Quaid played the singer.
Lewis won a Grammy award in 1986 for “Class of ‘55,” with several of his albums later being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989. The pianist has been married seven times ― the first was to Dorothy Barton when he was 16 years old. Lewis married his seventh wife, Judith Lewis, in 2012. He had six children from all his marriages. Lewis passed away on October 28, 2022.
As a singer for Sun Records, Lewis releases songs such as ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ which are great hits.
The singer records “Live at the Star Club, Hamburg,” his only hit album in the ’60s, with the Nashville Teens.
Lewis records a country album, “Another Place, Another Time,” which becomes his first smash hit in a decade.
He releases “Jerry Lee Lewis” with Elektra Records, gaining high praise from critics.
They record an album together, “Class of ‘55,” which later goes on to win a Grammy Award.
The film “Great Balls of Fire!” is loosely based on Lewis’ life, in which the singer-pianist re-records his songs for the film’s soundtrack.
Why We Love Jerry Lee Lewis
For him, age is just a number
The pianist-singer was 86 years old, but that didn't stop him from working and releasing more songs; he has gone on tours and was also working on soon-to-be-released albums. Lewis has proved that age doesn’t matter and that it’s dedication that makes someone successful!
He didn’t give up easily
In his impressively long career, Lewis has been in controversies, such as when he married his young cousin in 1957 or when he sued his daughter in 2017. There was a time when Lewis didn’t record many hit songs, but he didn’t give up and leave the industry; he persisted till he made it big!
His humble background
Lewis lived on a farm where his passion for music began. When his parents recognized it, they decided to mortgage their farm to buy him a piano. Later, when the singer had to move to Memphis to audition for Sun Records, his father sold 33 dozen eggs to finance the trip. Lewis knows the meaning of working hard to succeed.
5 Surprising Facts
His music got him expelled from school
At a church talent show organized by his Christian school, Lewis sang a boogie-woogie version of ‘My God is Real,’ an act that horrified his teachers and led to his expulsion from the school.
He once married his cousin
Lewis's third marriage, which ended in 1970, was to Myra Gale Brown, his first cousin who was only 13 years old at the time.
He loved Chihuahuas
The singer’s favorite breed of dog is a chihuahua, and he had several of them; his favorite was named Topaz, followed by Topaz Jr., Babette, Prince, and Zelda.
He added ‘Lee’ to his name later
Lewis added ‘Lee’ as a middle name to distinguish himself from the comedian that was his namesake.
He once stayed awake for 12 days
When he was younger, Lewis decided to experiment with how many nights he could stay awake, revealing that 12 nights in a row was too far and that he never did such a thing again.
Jerry Lee Lewis FAQs
How is Jimmy Swaggart related to Jerry Lee Lewis?
Swaggart and Lewis were double first cousins; they have some common maternal and paternal relatives.
Did Jerry Lee Lewis ever set a piano on fire?
Although Lewis was known for his aggressive piano-playing style, the stories that claimed he set the instrument on fire are false.
Why is Jerry Lee Lewis called the ‘Killer?’
Lewis was called the ‘Killer’ because of his dynamic piano-playing style and ‘wild boy’ attitude.
Jerry Lee Lewis’s birthday dates