Jerry Lee Lewis helped inspire many of rock’s biggest acts to become musicians. As you can see from the career-spanning collection of photographs below, many of them were lucky enough to meet or even perform with their pioneering hero.
Born Sept. 29, 1935, Lewis shot to fame in 1957 with the hit single “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” A string of smashes such as “Great Balls of Fire,” “High School Confidential” and “Breathless” followed before a scandal involving Lewis’ 1958 marriage to his 13-year-old cousin brought his career to a halt.
A decade later, Lewis was able to reignite his career on the country music charts, landing over a dozen Top 10 singles between 1968 and 1977. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and his life was the subject of the 1989 movie Great Balls of Fire, with Dennis Quaid starring as Lewis. “Jerry Lee Lewis was always a big influence on me,” Elton John is quoted as saying in the 2007 biography Elton. “He’s the best rock ‘n’ roll pianist ever. I couldn’t play like him because he’s too fast.”
“With Jerry, there was a genuine feeling of danger about him, and that was part of the excitement,” Robbie Robertson of the Band noted in a 2006 Rolling Stone interview. “You never knew if something was going to make him laugh or cry or get angry. But the important thing was the music. I used to watch him in those little honky-tonks, and there was music coming out of his every pore. Everything he did was musical. Everything he did was in time.”
Jerry Lee Lewis Through the Years: Photo Gallery
There’s a whole lotta shakin’ (and more) goin’ on here