Jerry Lee Lewis, the singer and pianist known as “The Killer” and considered the father of rock ‘n’ roll, has passed away. Age-wise, he was 87.
Lewis was referred to be “the most gifted man I ever worked with, black or white” and “one of the most talented people to walk God’s earth” by Sam Philips, the founder of Sun Records and the producer who also discovered Elvis, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison.
But once he married his 13-year-old cousin in 1958, only months after his first hit song was released, his career crashed almost as rapidly as it had risen.
Jerry Lee Lewis was born on September 29, 1935, in Ferriday, Louisiana, and spent his childhood split between his religious upbringing and a strong urge to dance. His relative Jimmy Swaggart, a prominent and ultimately infamous evangelical preacher, was similarly fond of denouncing “the devil’s music,” and his mother was a Pentecostal minister who disapproved of popular music.
Lewis’s father, who had previously served time in prison for bootlegging, however, took out a mortgage on the family farm when Lewis was just eight years old to purchase a piano for young Jerry. He spent his formative years sneaking into the seedy clubs and hiding under the tables until he was expelled.