Jerry Lee Lewis, original wild man of rock ‘n’ roll, dies at 87
Johnny Cash, who had not seen Jerry Lee Lewis perform for 30 years, was among those who paid tribute to the legend
The legend of Jerry Lee Lewis is no more.
The singer was 87 and died on Friday from an undisclosed cause at his home in Las Vegas. He was found to have a medical condition known as mesothelioma, a disease often caused by exposure to asbestos.
On Wednesday, a hospital in New Jersey confirmed Lewis had been taken off life support after doctors discovered he was suffering from the disease. Lewis died sometime over the weekend.
The legend was born from a series of events that began in the spring of 1949 when Lewis was a new, unknown singer who met guitarist Johnny Cash, who had an immediate impact on him. The pair later formed the band The Highwaymen, with Lewis as the lead singer. Although the band made a significant impact on the music scene, they only lasted from 1949 to 1951 before disbanding.
Lewis then moved back to his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas to pursue a solo career, becoming the first black man to have a #1 hit on the Billboard charts with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” in 1953.
One of only six black musicians to enjoy the popularity of the genre, Lewis was hailed as one of the greatest living voices in music and an American institution. Even after Lewis’ death, his name remains synonymous with the soulful music of his time.
Lewis’ legacy became even bigger after the release of his hit “What’d I Say,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1954. Its lyrics, written by Ray Charles, are often credited as one of the most influential songs in the history of music, with its refrain of “You gotta believe in something. You gotta hold on. You gotta believe in something.”
Lewis’ biggest hits came in the latter part of the 50s and early