JERRY LEE LEWIS died on Friday, October 28th. And while there are those who will remember him only for the scandal of marrying Myra Lewis Williams, his 13 year old cousin in 1957; Lewis was a true pioneer of rock n’roll music. His influence and style can be heard and seen across the music spectrum; from punk and garage to glam and heavy metal. Lewis’ pounding (often violent) piano style is at the bedrock of a music genre that once prided itself on the primal and true instinct of a performance. It’s fair to say that bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and the New York Dolls wouldn’t exist as we know them today without the attitude and showmanship that Lewis brought to the music.
So a flawed but extraordinary man has past from the world; a man with many noteworthy shortcomings. And a musical icon of the first order. Let us take a moment for “The Killer” (as Lewis was affectionately known) and wish him safe passage on his journey. Below is a link to Lewis performing “Whole Lota Shakin’ Goin’ On” on the Steve Allen show in 1957. No lip-singing or pyrotechnics. Just three musicians on stage at the height of their magicus.
I don’t know if Lewis should be labeled a poet; let’s leave that description to those schooled in such important matters. But watching Jerry Lee Lewis perform, I’m struck by the thought that his music was as close to the essence of artistic creation as rock n’ roll ever came. His performance is nothing short of a ritual between the musician and the audience; an act of communion. Lewis walking the hallowed hallway’s of legend and myth whenever he strutted onto the stage. RIP