Jerry Lee Lewis has died, Fox News Digital can confirm.
The rock ‘n’ roll pioneer passed away after suffering from various
illnesses throughout the years, his publicist said Friday in a press release.
"He was there at the beginning, with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry,
Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and the rest,
and watched them fade away one by one till it was him alone to bear witness,
and sing of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll," the release added.
Over the years, Lewis struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, legal
disputes and physical illness.
"He is ready to leave," his wife Judith said just before his death,
according to the press release.
"Jerry Lee’s indelible mark as a rock & roller in no way obscures his impact
as one of the greatest country singers of all time," Kyle Young,
CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said Friday in a statement.
"He was the ultimate stylist, taking songs to places they could never have gone
without his unique voice and soul. Known as ‘The Killer,’ in reality he was a
reviver, resurrecting music and emotions. The country records he made with producer
Jerry Kennedy will never be replicated or surpassed, and we were honored to recently
welcome him into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Among the greatest of artists,
he was, as his friend Kris Kristofferson put it, ‘a table-thumpin’ smash.’"
Lewis began as a rock ‘n’ roll performer in the 1950s. Other big-name artists at the
time included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
In the 1960s, the Louisiana-born musician rebranded as a country music artist.
He continued to be successful, earning three Grammys.
Lewis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Oct. 16. He had 34 Top 20
country hits between 1968 and 1981, according to the Country Music Association.
The singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
"To be recognized by Country Music with their highest honor is a humbling experience," Lewis said
in a statement when the induction was first announced.
"The little boy from Ferriday, Louisiana, listening to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams
never thought he’d be in a Hall amongst them. I am appreciative of all those who have recognized
that Jerry Lee Lewis music is country music and to our almighty God for his never-ending
Lewis also collaborated with top artists throughout his career. In 2006, he released
the song "Last Man Standing" featuring Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, B.B. King and
George Jones. Lewis also produced "Mean Old Man" in 2010, which included works with
Jagger, Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow and Tim McGraw, among others.
Lewis was no stranger to controversy throughout his life. At one point, he was
married to his cousin. Once the press learned of the marriage, at the same time
he was married to his first wife, his career almost ended.
"I probably would have rearranged my life a little bit different, but I never did hide
anything from people," Lewis told The Wall Street Journal in 2014 when asked about
the marriage. "I just went on with my life as usual."
Lewis married seven times, and was rarely far from trouble or death. His fourth wife,
Jaren Elizabeth Gunn Pate, drowned in a swimming pool in 1982 while suing for divorce.
His fifth wife, Shawn Stephens, 23 years his junior, died of an apparent drug overdose in 1983.
Within a year, Lewis had married Kerrie McCarver, then 21. She filed for divorce in 1986, accusing
him of physical abuse and infidelity. He countersued, but both petitions eventually were dropped.
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