Jerry Lee Lewis

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Lewis, Jerry Lee,

1935–, American singer and composer, b. Ferriday, La. Combining country music elements with an energetic performance style, he was an early star of rock musicrock music,
type of music originating in the United States in the mid-1950s and increasingly popular throughout much of the world. Origins of Rock

Essentially hybrid in origin, rock music includes elements of several black and white American music styles: black
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. His songs include "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire." Hailed as an innovator and a rowdy old master of rock, he continues to perform and record.


See biographies by N. Tosches (1982, repr. 1998) and R. Bragg (2014).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Lewis, Jerry Lee

(1935–  ) musician; born in Ferriday, La. A singer and pianist, he emerged in 1956 as one of the most fervent and blues-flavored of the rock 'n' roll originators. He began singing in Assembly of God churches and Bible schools before working as a session musician at Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn. His first recordings for Sun, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire," caused a sensation and became classics of rock. In 1958, he starred in the film High School Confidential, but later that year, when he married his 14-year-old cousin, Myra, he was effectively boycotted by television and radio. Personal controversy and drug addiction continually dogged his career. He made a successful switch to a career in country music in the 1960s and 1970s, but remained widely celebrated for his contributions to rock. In 1986, Lewis became an inaugural member of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame. Great Balls of Fire, a major film biography dramatizing the early years of Lewis's career, was released in 1989.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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