Friday, Los Angeles. Family , friends and fans gathered Saturday to say goodbye to rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis at a memorial service in his northern Louisiana hometown.
Lewis, known for his songs “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” died Oct. 28 at his home in Mississippi, south of Memphis, Tennessee. He was 87 years old.
Television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, Lewis’ cousin, told more than 100 people at Young’s Funeral Home in Vered, where Lewis was born, that when Lewis died, “I lost a brother I never had.”
“We learned to play the piano together,” Swaggart recalls. “I should have realized he wasn’t here anymore.”
Swaggart and Lewis released The Boys From Ferriday earlier this year, and Swaggart said he wasn’t sure Lewis would handle the recording process.
“He was very thin,” Swaggart said. I remember saying — Sir, I don’t know if he can do it. But when Jerry Lee sat down at the piano, you know, he was limited in what he could play because of the effect, but when the engineer said the red light was on and he opened his mouth, he said, “God, take it. my hand!” I need you every hour. Hear my weak prayer, Lord, look at me.”
The result of the session was an album, and his songs “Lorategia” and “Old Rugged Cross” were played during the service. Viewers were seen wiping tears from their eyes and singing along with Lewis during the video.
“He was one of the greatest artists who ever lived,” Swaggart said.
Lewis, who called himself “The Killer,” was the last survivor of a generation of artists who rewrote music history, a group that included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
Louie’s body lay in front of the funeral home’s main hall in a closed red coffin covered in a mist of red roses. Several funeral wreaths, including one shaped like a musical note, line the walls behind and around the casket, along with photos of the singer, one of which shows him sitting in a red suit and singing into a microphone.
Swaggart’s son, Donnie Swaggart, recalled a meeting between Lewis and members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a country rock group from Memphis that brought out Lewis’ funny side.
He said his father and Louis were walking to the ring exit when their teammates entered. One of the men asked as Jerry Lee walked. “Are you Jerry Lee Lewis?” Jerry Lee stopped and looked each one up and down and said. Then he went outside.”
Donnie Swaggart said the boys were there, their jaws agape. What a sense of humor he had,” the audience laughed.
After his personal life erupted in the late 1950s, he was rumored to have married his 13-year-old cousin, and possibly 12-year-old Myra Jill Brown, while he was married to his ex-wife. pianists and rockers. Rebel was blacklisted from radio and his revenue was virtually wiped out. In the decades that followed, Lewis struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, legal problems, and physical ailments.
“He always had a heart for God, even at the lowest levels,” Jimmy Swaggart said. “I will miss him very much, but we know where he is now and we thank God for that.”
Javier Ellis, 28, who was born in Verde and now attends school in Opelousas, Louisiana, says Luis’ life is an inspiration.
“He was a poor kid from Ferriday who made it to the top. I was so touched by his life story. I am saddened by his passing, but his legacy will live on,” Ellis said.
In the 1960s, Lewis reinvented himself as a country artist and was eventually forgiven by the music industry. Between 1967 and 1970, he had numerous Top 10 hits across the country, including “She Still Comes Around” and “What Made Milwaukee Famous” (Made a Loser Out of Me).
In 1986, along with Elvis, Perry and others, Lewis was part of an early rock group. & was inducted into the Rollo Hall of Fame and the Country Hall of Fame this year. His life and music were reintroduced to new fans in the 1989 biopic Great Balls of Fire starring Dennis Quaid and Ethan Cohen’s documentary A Restless Mind.
The 2010 Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet was inspired by a recording session with Lewis, Elvis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
Lewis won a Grammy in 1987 for Best Spoken Word Recording for the album Interview, and in 2005 he won a Grammy Award.
The following year, “Whole Lotta Shakin'” was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, and its committee praised it as “a dance piano piece that perfectly complements J. It was hard to sit through the show.”
Tom Tomchin and his wife, Sandra, traveled to Cicero, Illinois on Friday to honor Luis for all that he has done to make music.
“We felt the need to honor a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer who played an important role in creating and shaping the genre,” said Tomchin. – I was a fan all my life.
Tomchin, 45, who is a government official, said “Crazy Arms” and “You Earn Again” were some of his favorite songs for Lewis, describing him as single.
“He never lived in the background,” Tomchin said of Lewis. “Through his ups and downs, good and bad, he did what he set out to do. Jerry Lee Lewis laid it all out on the table. There will never be another man like Jerry Lee Lewis.”
Librarian Sandra Tomchin, 44, said she grew up with Lewis’ music and that it left an indelible mark on her life.
“We love it,” he said of his music. “We’ve been to some of his concerts, and even though he’s gone, he’ll live on in our hearts.”
Associated Press New Orleans staffer Shevel Johnson contributed to this report. A Hillel Italy writer contributed to the New York Associated Press.