Legendary entertainer Jerry Lee Lewis passed away on Friday (Oct. 28) at the age of 87 at his home in Memphis, Tennessee.
Also known as “The Killer,” Lewis earned 28 top 10 Billboard Country singles across four decades, including hits “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On,” both of which have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. He was also the first person inducted into the first class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. The Recording Academy honored Lewis with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and earlier this month, he was formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Lewis is survived by his wife Judith and four surviving children, plus extended family. Services will be announced in the coming days. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations in Lewis’ honor to the Arthritis Foundation or MusiCares.
Over the past few days since the news broke, the Nashville music industry and beyond has shared their thoughts and condolences for the beloved vocalist and pianist.
“One of my most vivid memories of Jerry Lee was in 1997, when he was a guest on ‘Monday Night Concerts’ at the Ryman. Ricky Skaggs and Brian Setzer joined Jerry Lee for a set that started with the classic ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ended with a stirring rendition of ‘The Old Rugged Cross.’ A true force of nature, it was amazing to be able to witness Jerry perform in person that night. As one of the most talented musicians and entertainers of our time, it warms my heart to know that he got the chance to accept his rightful place in the hallowed hall as a member of the newest class of Country Music Hall of Fame inductees just a few weeks ago. My deepest condolences go out to Jerry Lee’s family and friends during this time.” – Sarah Trahern, Country Music Association CEO
“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. 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.’” – Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
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“Jerry Lee was a Christian, an American icon and the greatest piano player in the world. People will be listening to ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ‘Whole Lot of Shakin” 500 years from now. I will miss him. God bless you Jerry Lee.” – Dennis Quaid
“It’s so sad to hear that Jerry Lee Lewis has passed. I’ve loved him since I first met and worked with him in the early 1970s. He was definitely one of a kind as an artist and person.” – Crystal Gayle
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“Jerry Lee at the beginning of a session put his gun on the piano. Silence. They do the session… The next day the musicians come to the session and all bring their guns. That was Jerry Lee.” – Don McLean
“The image and influence of Jerry Lee Lewis is an iconic memory we will always have. As a musician/singer I loved his energy and style. He was the greatest!” – Janie Fricke
“The first time I saw Jerry Lee Lewis play and literally light his piano on fire I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do!’ He proved that not all piano players are balladeers and that’s what I love and will always remember about him. He was a huge inspiration to me and so many musicians across genres. May he rest in peace.” – Phil Vassar
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