Jerry Lee Lewis, the piano legend hailing from Ferriday, Louisiana, took the music world by storm in the 1950s with his electrifying piano performances. Best known for hits like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” Lewis stood out among the early rock ‘n’ roll artists with his distinctive style, much like his counterparts Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Elvis, and Little Richard.
A Musical Prodigy’s Beginnings
Born on September 25, 1938, to Elmo and Mamie Lewis, Jerry Lee was the fourth of four siblings. His journey into music began at the age of 9 when he first touched the keys of a piano. Recognizing his talent, his parents mortgaged property to buy him his own piano at the age of 10. From that point onward, Lewis honed his skills, eventually making his music debut with Sun Records in 1956.
Love and Controversy: Lewis’ Third Marriage
Beyond his musical prowess, Jerry Lee Lewis was known for his tumultuous love life. By 1957, he had been married twice and was about to embark on his third marriage, which would prove to be highly controversial. On December 12, 1957, Lewis married Myra Gale Brown, his cousin. Unbeknownst to the public, Brown, listed as 20, was only 13 years old. The revelation during Lewis’ overseas tour in 1958 sparked outrage and led to a massive boycott of his music, threatening his career.
Loss and Grief: Tragedy Strikes Lewis’ Family
Despite the controversy, Lewis continued his musical journey. In 1959, he and Brown welcomed their first child, Steven Allen Lewis. However, tragedy struck the family when, at the age of three, Steven drowned in a swimming pool in 1963. The pain of losing a child was compounded nearly a decade later when Jerry Lee Lewis Jr., Lewis’ oldest son from a previous marriage, lost his life in a fatal car crash at the age of 19 in Mississippi.
Coping with Unthinkable Losses
Jerry Lee Lewis faced unimaginable grief as he coped with the loss of two of his sons. The drowning of young Steven and the tragic car accident that claimed Jerry Lee Lewis Jr.’s life left an indelible mark on the iconic musician. These heartbreaking events unfolded amidst Lewis’ enduring commitment to his music career, requiring him to navigate personal sorrow while honoring professional commitments.
A Musical Journey Marred by Tragedy
The sorrow of losing two sons did not halt Jerry Lee Lewis’ musical journey. Despite the personal challenges, he continued to share his gift with the world, adhering to a recently signed five-year contract. Lewis’ ability to persevere through profound grief speaks to the resilience of the man behind the piano, whose life became a testament to the coexistence of triumph and tragedy.
Legacy of Strength: Jerry Lee Lewis’ Impact
Jerry Lee Lewis’ life story is one of musical brilliance and personal tribulations. His enduring legacy goes beyond controversies and heartbreak, reflecting the resilience of a man whose contributions to rock ‘n’ roll will forever echo through the keys of a piano. Despite the painful chapters in his life, Lewis’ impact on the world of music remains an enduring testament to the enduring power of artistic expression.