Dennis Quaid is among the many stars, fans and friends who turned to social media to honor Jerry Lee Lewis after his death on Friday (Oct. 28). Quaid — who portrayed Lewis in the 1989 film Great Balls of Fire — remembered Lewis as “an American icon.”
Lewis’ publicist confirmed his death on Friday, just days after TMZ and numerous other news outlets incorrectly reported his death early. Lewis died at his home in Mississippi at the age of 87 after battling multiple ailments in recent years. He had been fighting the flu right before his death, but his cause of death has not been publicly reported.
“Jerry Lee was a Christian, an American icon and the greatest piano player in the world,” Quaid says in a statement. “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.”
Lewis’ death came less than two weeks after his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, which took place on Oct. 16. Lewis had to miss the ceremony because of his flu battle, and Hall CEO Kyle Young shared that the octogenarian had informed the Hall that very morning that doctors thought it would be too risky for him to travel to Nashville. So, instead, Lewis wrote a letter and asked Hank Williams Jr. to read it on his behalf. Kris Kristofferson accepted the medallion for Lewis, and later presented it to him in person at his home before he died.
Lewis shot to fame in the ’50s as part of the vanguard of young country and rock artists that included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. They were collectively known as the Million Dollar Quartet, and Lewis scored a string of early classic hits that included ”Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Breathless” and “High School Confidential.”
Lewis’ star dimmed considerably after a series of highly publicized scandals over marriages, drugs and alcohol, violence and arrests overshadowed his music. He staged a comeback in the late ’60s that carried him into the ’70s and ’80s, with hits including ”Chantilly Lace,” “What Made Milwaukee Famous,” “Middle Age Crazy,” “Thirty-Nine and Holding” and more. Nicknamed “the Killer” in part due to his electrifying live performances, Lewis continued to perform until well into his later years, when various health concerns sidelined him.
Lewis is survived by his wife Judith and four surviving children, plus extended family. Services are to be announced. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations be made in Lewis’ honor to the Arthritis Foundation or MusiCares.
Jerry Lee Lewis Through the Years: Photo Gallery
There’s a whole lotta shakin’ (and more) goin’ on here
In Memoriam: Country Stars Who Have Died in 2022
May they rest in peace …