Family, friends and fans say goodbye in tears to Jerry Lee Lewis

Family, friends and fans bid farewell to rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis at memorial services in his hometown of Louisiana.

ewis, known for hits like Great Balls Of Fire and Whole Lotta Shakin ‘Goin’ On, died on October 28 at his home in Mississippi, south of Memphis, Tennessee, aged 87.

Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, Lewis’ cousin, told more than 100 people inside Young’s Funeral Home in Ferriday, the town where Lewis was born, that when the singer died, he “lost a brother.” never happend”.

“We learned to play the piano together,” recalls Mr. Swaggart. “I have to make myself realize that he’s not here anymore.”


Donna Hoffmann, third cousin of rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis, views his casket before the funeral in Ferriday (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Swaggart and Lewis released The Boys From Ferriday, a gospel album, earlier this year, and Mr Swaggart said he wasn’t sure if Lewis would make it through the recording session.

“He was very weak,” Mr. Swaggart said. “I remember saying, ‘God, I don’t know if he can do it or not.’ But when Jerry Lee was sitting at that piano, you knew he was limited in his ability to play because of his stroke, but when the engineer said the red light was on and when he opened his mouth, he said, ‘My God. , take my hand. , I need you every hour. Hear my weak plea, O God, despise me. ‘”

This session produced the album and its two songs that were played during the service – In The Garden and The Old Rugged Cross. The audience was seen wiping away tears and singing along to Lewis as the recording played.


Jerry Lee Lewis poses for a photo at the Country Music Hall of Fame after it was announced that he would be inducted as a member (Mark Humphrey/AP)

“He was one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived,” Mr. Swaggart said.

Lewis, who calls himself the Killer, is the last survivor of a generation of artists rewriting music history, a group that included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

Donnie Swaggart recalls a meeting in Memphis between Lewis and members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a country rock band, highlighting Lewis’ comedic side.

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He said that his father and Lewis were walking towards the exit of an arena when the band members were entering.


Chuck Berry, left, and Lewis embrace at a reception at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York in 1986 (G. Paul Burnett/AP)

“As they approached Lewis, one asked, ‘I think that’s human? Is that Jerry Lee Lewis? ‘ As Jerry Lee passed by, one of the men asked, ‘Are you Jerry Lee Lewis?’ Jerry Lee stopped and looked at each of them from top to bottom and said, ‘Boys, Murder is my name and music is my thing.’ And then he walked out.”

Mr Swaggart said the men stood there, gaping in amazement. “What a sense of humour he has,” Mr. Swaggart said as the audience laughed.

After his personal life was in turmoil in the late 1950s following the news of his marriage to his cousin, 13-year-old – maybe even 12-year-old – Myra Gale Brown, while still married with his previous wife, a piano and rock player. the rebel has been blacklisted from the radio and his income is almost nothing.

In the decades that followed, Lewis struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, legal disputes, and illness.

Jimmy Swaggart said: “He always had a heart for God, even in his lowest moments. “I will miss him so much but we know where he is and thank God for that.”


Lewis leaves the Westbury Hotel in London in 1958 (Leonard ‘Buster’ Brown/AP)

Xavier Ellis, 28, a Ferriday native who now teaches in Opelousas, Louisiana, says Lewis’ life has been an inspiration.

“He was a poor kid from Ferriday who reached the heights he had reached. I was very impressed with his life story. I’m sad he’s gone, but his legacy will live on,” Mr. Ellis said.

In the 1960s, Lewis reinvented himself as a country performer, and the music industry eventually forgave him. He had a series of top country hits from 1967 to 1970, including She Still Comes Around and What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me).

In 1986, along with Elvis, Berry and others, Lewis was in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s first class of artists and entered the Country Hall of Fame this year. His life and music were reintroduced to younger fans in the 1989 biopic Great Balls Of Fire, starring Dennis Quaid, and Ethan Coen’s 2022 documentary Trouble In Mind. Family, friends and fans say goodbye in tears to Jerry Lee Lewis

Fry Electronics Team

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