Elton John, Ringo Starr and Dennis Quaid were among the celebrities who paid tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis following his death at the age of 87.
The rock n’ roll star, whose biggest hits include “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” died on Friday at his Tennessee home with his wife Judith by his side, his publicist confirmed in a press release. He is survived by Judith, and his children Ronnie, Lori, Phoebe and Jerry Lee III.
No cause of death was given, though the singer had suffered numerous health issues in recent years, including a 2019 stroke. Last week, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame but did not attend the ceremony at the recommendation of his doctors.
“Without Jerry Lee Lewis, I wouldn’t have become who I am today,” John wrote on Twitter, along with a photo of himself with Lewis.
The “Tiny Dancer” hitmaker continued, “He was groundbreaking and exciting, and he pulverized the piano. A brilliant singer too. Thank you for your trailblazing inspiration and all the rock ‘n’ roll memories. #RIP.”
JERRY LEE LEWIS, ‘GREAT BALLS OF FIRE’ SINGER, DEAD AT 87
John met Lewis for the first time when they performed at the 2015 New Orleans Jazzfest. “Elton said it was the most nervous he’s ever been, more than any gig,” Jazzfest producer Quint Davis told the Times-Picayune.
David Buckley’s 2007 biography “Elton” quoted the singer as saying, “Jerry Lee Lewis was always a big influence on me. He’s the best rock ‘n’ roll pianist ever. I couldn’t play like him because he’s too fast.”
Starr tweeted, “God bless Jerry lee Lewis peace and love to all his family Ringo.”
Quaid, who portrayed Lewis in the 1989 movie “Great Balls of Fire,” issued a statement that read, “Jerry Lee was a Christian, an American icon and the greatest piano player in the world.
“People will be listening to ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ’Whole Lot of Shakin’ 500 years from now. I will miss him. God bless you Jerry Lee.”
“Sadly, One of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll has passed. A rebel to the end. RIP, Jerry Lee Lewis,” Gene Simmons tweeted.
The Rolling Stones member Ronnie Wood wrote on Twitter, “R.I.P. JLL the KILLER-What a man.”
Stephen King tweeted, “RIP Jerry Lee Lewis. The Killer has gone. He could play that piano, boy. Think I gotta play me some Lewis Boogie.”
“Jerry Lee Lewis has passed … REST EASY KILLER you were one of a kind… #RIPJerryLee,” the Oak Ridge Boys wrote on Twitter.
“One of my most vivid memories of Jerry Lee was in 1997, when he was a guest on ‘Monday Night Concerts’ at the Ryman,” Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern said in a statement.
Trahern continued, “Ricky Skaggs and Brian Setzer joined Jerry Lee for a set that started with the classic ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ended with a stirring rendition of ‘The Old Rugged Cross.’ A true force of nature, it was amazing to be able to witness Jerry perform in person that night.”
“As one of the most talented musicians and entertainers of our time, it warms my heart to know that he got the chance to accept his rightful place in the hallowed hall as a member of the newest class of Country Music Hall of Fame inductees just a few weeks ago. My deepest condolences go out to Jerry Lee’s family and friends during this time.”
A number of Lewis’ colleagues and friends shared their memories of the groundbreaking artist in statements.
“It’s so sad to hear that Jerry Lee Lewis has passed. I’ve loved him since I first met and worked with him in the early 1970s. He was definitely one of a kind as an artist and person.” wrote Crystal Gayle.
David Frizzell recalled, “I first met Jerry Lee Lewis with my brother Lefty in the late 50’s on a TV set they were filming and got to hear him sing ‘Great Balls Of Fire’… then years later when I was recording in California in the early ’80s (on a night off) we went to The Palamino Club to see Jerry’s show (that is the night me and my wife Jo met) and got to visit with him briefly.”
“Over the next few years, we got to do a lot of shows together. We were so proud he was just inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. ‘Say Hello to Heaven’ Jerry Lee”
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“Jerry Lee at the beginning of a session put his gun on the piano. Silence. They do the session… The next day the musicians come to the session and all bring their guns. That was Jerry Lee,” read a statement from Don McLean.
Many others took to social media to share their admiration for Lewis and spoke of the influence that the pioneering musician had on their careers.
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