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".
An early pioneer of rock and roll music, Lewis had hits in the late 1950s with songs such as "Great Balls of Fire", "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", "Breathless" and "High School Confidential". However, Lewis' rock 'n' roll career faltered in the wake of his marriage to his young cousin. He had little success in the charts following the scandal until his popularity recovered in the late 1960s after he extended his career to country and western music with songs such as "Another Place, Another Time". More country hits soon followed over the late 1960s and through the 1970s.
Lewis's successes continued throughout the decade and he embraced his rock 'n' 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 new album, titled Last Man Standing, is his best selling to date at over a million copies sold worldwide.
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 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine listed his box set All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology number 242 on their list of "500 greatest albums of all time".
In 1957, Lewis became a star with his unique piano-driven sound. "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" became a hit on the pop, country and R&B charts. By this time, Lewis had also developed some of his famous stage antics, such as playing standing up and even lighting the occasional piano on fire. He had such energy and enthusiasm in his performances that he earned the nickname "The Killer" for the way he knocked out his audiences.
Lewis appeared to be on a roll. His next single, "Great Balls of Fire," proved to be another big hit in December 1957. The following March, Lewis struck again with "Breathless," which made into the Top 10 of the pop charts. Behind the scenes, however, some of Lewis's life choices would soon put a tamper on his career.
Lewis is the last surviving member of Sun Records' Million Dollar Quartet and the Class of '55 album, which altogether included Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley, as well as Lewis himself. Lewis already had two brief marriages under his belt when he decided to marry his cousin Myra Gale Brown in 1957. On their marriage license, Brown stated she was 20 years old, but she was really only 13 at the time.
News of his underage bride broke as Lewis started a tour of the United Kingdom in 1958, creating such an outcry that the tour was quickly cancelled. Even when Lewis returned to the States, he found that he got a less-than-warm welcome home. Radio stations refused to play his songs, and Lewis had a hard time lining up any live performances.
Still Lewis managed to score one more hit with "High School Confidential" in 1958 before his career took a nosedive. He performed the song in the film by the same name starring Mamie Van Doren and Russ Tamblyn.
This nearly lifelong musician and singer continues to record new music and perform. He has released two well-received albums in recent years. For 2006's Last Man Standing, Lewis sang a number of rock, blues and country classics with some help from such famous admirers as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Buddy Guy.
Collaborator Kristofferson described Lewis as "one of the few who can do rock 'n' roll, country or soul, and every song is authentic." He told USA Today that Lewis is "one of the best American voices ever."
Lewis and Kristofferson worked together again on Lewis's next effort, 2010's Mean Old Man. The all-star guests on this release, included Eric Clapton, Tim McGraw, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock and John Fogerty among others.
Lewis spends much of his time at his ranch in Nesbit, Mississippi. His daughter, Phoebe Lewis, has worked as his manager and served as a producer on some of his albums. Phoebe is from his third marriage to Myra Gale Brown. He is currently married to his seventh wife, Judith Brown, who was once married to Lewis's cousin Rusty. The couple wed in 2012.