Jerry Lee Lewis (born September 29, 1935) is an American rock and roll and country music singer-songwriter and pianist. He is known by the nickname “The Killer” and is often viewed as “rock & roll’s first great wild man.”
An early pioneer of rock and roll music, in 1956 Lewis made his first recordings at Sun Records. “Crazy Arms” sold 300,000 copies in the South, but it was his 1957 hit “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” that shot Lewis to fame worldwide. Lewis followed this when he recorded songs such as “Great Balls of Fire”, “Breathless” and “High School Confidential”. However, Lewis’s rock and roll career faltered in the wake of his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin when he was 22.
He had little success in the charts following the scandal and his popularity quickly faded. His live performance fees plummeted from $10,000 per night to $250. In the meantime he was determined to gain back some of his popularity. During the early 1960s he didn’t have much chart success with few exceptions such as “What’d I Say”. His live performances at this time were increasingly wild and energetic. His album Live at the Star Club, Hamburg from 1964 is often regarded by many music journalists and fans as one of the wildest and greatest rock and roll concert albums ever. After recording songs such as “I’m on Fire” for several years with little success, in 1968 Lewis made a transition into country music and had hits with songs such as “Another Place, Another Time”. This reignited his career and throughout the late 1960s and 1970s he regularly topped the country-western charts. His No. 1 country hits included “To Make Love Sweeter For You”, “There Must Be More to Love Than This”, “Would You Take Another Chance on Me” and “Me And Bobby McGee”.
Lewis’s successes continued throughout the decade and he embraced his rock and roll past with songs such as a cover of the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace” and “Rockin’ My Life Away”. In the 21st century Lewis continues to tour to audiences around the world and still releases new albums. One such album, titled Last Man Standing, is his best selling to date at over a million copies sold worldwide. This was followed by Mean Old Man, which has received some of the best sales of Lewis’s career.
Lewis has had a dozen gold records in both rock and country, won several Grammy awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Lewis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and his pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 1989, his life was chronicled in the movie Great Balls of Fire, starring Dennis Quaid. In 2003, Rolling Stone listed his box set All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology number 242 on their list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. In 2004, they ranked him number 24 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Lewis is the last surviving member of Sun Records’ Million Dollar Quartet and the Class of ’55 album, which also included Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley.