This week in rock history, Jerry Lee Lewis told the world he'd married his teenage cousin, Simon and Garfunkel kicked themselves out of the Number One spot on the charts, Public Enemy's Professor Griff got fired for making anti-Semitic remarks, Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley and the Spice Girls were the third all-female group to hit Number One on the U.S. charts.
May 22, 1958 – Jerry Lee Lewis begins his first U.K. tour and reveals he was married to his 13-year-old cousin
What killed the Killer’s career? Only the marriage scandal of the decade.
In the spring of 1958, 22-year-old singer/pianist Jerry Lee Lewis was poised to become a worldwide celebrity. Already revered in America as a pioneer of rock music and a boisterous performer, his singles "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire" dominated 1957 rock radio, earning him the nickname "the Killer" for his live ferocity and rebellious streak (yet one entrenched in a deeply Christian upbringing).
Lewis’s ascent ended abruptly in May, across the pond from his beloved Louisiana, when he arrived in London to begin his first U.K. tour. As he checked into the fashionable Westbury Hotel, he was greeted by reporters who asked who the identity of his young female companion. Lewis replied that the 13-year-old girl, Myra Gale Brown, was his wife and cousin and that he had been married twice previously. (Brown was technically Lewis’s first cousin once removed.)
The scandal rocked the international press. Lewis was besieged by the British Ministry of Labour and child welfare organizations, and 34 of his 37 U.K. dates were cancelled. Lewis returned to the United States, where he was blacklisted from radio; decried by his label, Sun Records; and made a pariah in the music community. After suffering widespread scorn for decades, Lewis eventually rebranded himself as a rockabilly artist, married several more times, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . . . and toured Europe in 1998, 30 years after his first aborted tour, with Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
May 25, 1968 – Simon and Garfunkel top the Billboard charts with Bookends
When Simon and Garfunkel’s The Graduate soundtrack topped the Billboard charts, it would not be usurped easily. The album spent nearly two months in the Number One slot before it was replaced by a worthy adversary: the duo’s next record.
Mike Nichols’s Oscar-winning film about post-graduation malaise wouldn’t have been complete without the wry coos of "Mrs. Robinson," one of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s most enduring songs. (The Graduate also featured works by American composer Dave Grusin.) However, the version of "Mrs. Robinson" in the movie was markedly different from the hit single; the latter debuted on Bookends, their fourth album. The first side was the duo’s study of aging (including the heartrending "Overs" and spoken word track "Voices of Old People"), and the second side were proposed and unused tracks for The Graduate soundtrack.
Bookends ended The Graduate soundtrack’s seven-week run atop the Billboard charts. It remained at Number One for three weeks, until it was replaced by The Graduate soundtrack for another two, after which Bookends reclaimed the top tier for another four – giving Paul and Art an uninterrupted 16 weeks on top of the world.
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