Jerry Lee Lewis, ‘Great Balls of Fire’ Singer, Dies at 87 Years Old



  • Lewis was known for songs “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On.”
  • He was an inaugural inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
  • Lewis died at his home in Desoto County, Mississippi on Friday, Insider has confirmed.

Jerry Lee Lewis, the piano-playing rock ‘n’ roller who created songs like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On,” died on Friday at the age of 87, his rep Zach Farnum confirmed to Insider.

“Judith, his seventh wife, was by his side when he passed away at his home in Desoto County, Mississippi, south of Memphis,” Farnum said in a statement. “He told her, in his final days, that he welcomed the hereafter, and that he was not afraid.”

Lewis was known best for his hard-rocking piano playing and vocals which made him an instant sensation during the late 1950s and resulted in him receiving the nickname, “The Killer.”

His antics also made him an instant celebrity of the times. He would famously play his piano by banging his feet on the keys and sometimes would set his piano on fire.

While Elvis Presley was becoming the King of Rock, Lewis became its madman.

Lewis found controversy in 1958 when it was revealed that he was married to the 13-year-old daughter of his bassist J.W. Brown who was Lewis’ first cousin once removed, Myra Gale Brown. The reveal led to his career faltering.

Jerry Lee Lewis playing piano with Myra Gale Brown sitting on it

Jerry Lee Lewis and Myra Gale Brown.

Tom Baffer/NY Daily News/Getty



Lewis regained popularity in the 1960s and stayed on the country music charts in the following decades with songs like “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)” and “Middle Age Crazy.”

He was an inaugural inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 along with Presley, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard. In 2022, he was an inductee of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In 1987, Dennis Quaid played Lewis in the biopic “Great Balls of Fire!” with Winona Ryder playing Myra Gale Brown.

Lewis was born in Ferriday, Louisiana in 1935. He had a religious upbringing and was a cousin of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.

Myra Gale Brown divorced Lewis in 1970, which, at the time, was his third marriage. He would marry four more times. 

He’s survived by his wife Judith Coghlan Lewis, his children Jerry Lee Lewis III, Ronnie Lewis, Phoebe Lewis, and Lori Lancaster, his sister Linda Gail Lewis, Swaggart, and several grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.



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