One of rock & roll’s pioneering artists, Jerry Lee Lewis, celebrates his 82nd birthday today, and as evidenced by his energetic appearance at the recent Skyville Live tribute to the legendary entertainer, he continues to define the rebellious spirit of the genre. But with that rebel stance (and the not-so-subtle nickname “the Killer”) came a scandal that pumped the brakes on Lewis’ career and nearly derailed it for good. In 1958, Lewis was in
While Lewis was banished from pop and rock radio stations in the wake of the controversial marriage, which lasted 13 years, he eventually embraced country music wholeheartedly, while still, naturally, demonstrating his ability to whip audiences into frenzy with his rapid-fire boogie-woogie piano and confident swagger. By 1971, Lewis, who had been persona non grata in
Having already cut songs by Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers, it followed that he would also cover one that era’s most noteworthy tunesmiths, Kris Kristofferson. Lewis reached Number Two for two weeks in 1970 with “Once More With Feeling,” a tune Kristofferson wrote with Shel Silverstein.
A year and a half later, he would cover the Oxford-educated former military man again, with a hyper-boogie take on “Me and Bobby McGee,” months after the late Janis Joplin’s forlorn version made her only the second artist (after Otis Redding) to have a posthumous Number One pop hit. The Lewis version backed his late ’71 single, “Would You Take Another Chance on Me,” which topped the country chart in January 1972. A decade later, Lewis would perform the song during a live show in
With six Number One country hits to his credit, a case for enshrining Lewis in the Country Music Hall of Fame can certainly be made. That case is furthered strengthened by the