RIP Jerry Lee Lewis

Dec 21, 2022

After a couple of retrospectives and buried headlines, a few weeks after Jerry Lee Lewis has passed it’s almost like he’s been forgotten.

I was just watching this clip, thinking about how so many people focused on Jerry Lee for his image: the wild hair falling in his eyes, the crazy leopard lapel coat. People remember him setting fire to pianos and the times that he got in trouble with the law, or the times that he managed to get out of trouble he plainly caused.

But one thing I didn’t see anybody talking about when Jerry Lee Lewis passed was just how goddamn good his music was.

Take this clip. This is Jerry Lee at the height of his rock ‘n’ roll fame in 1958, with his road band. The feel is unmatched. The rhythm section does a good job of backing him up, but it’s all Jerry. That left hand! The blues delivery filtered through gospel singing in the church and a million backwoods hillbilly dives where he sang Hank Williams songs. he took all that and poured gasoline on it, and made his own style of rock ‘n’ roll. Hot damn, it was great.

I don’t know if other people have this happen to them, but so much music that I hear today, or for that matter, a lot of music that was very popular at any given time over the last seven decades, it’s missing the feel. I don’t “feel” anything when I hear most music. It’s like it’s completely empty, devoid of emotion, or something. But when Jerry Lee Lewis plays, that feel just locks in. It’s so, so soulful. Any Jerry Lee Lewis record is good, but those first few years of Sun recordings just lock in with that incredible feel (thanks for those awesome drum parts on those records, J.M. Van Eaton). He just had it. It came flying out of him. People really don’t understand how good a singer and piano player Jerry Lee Lewis was.

There will never be another one like him. Love him or hate him on a personal level, I just want people to appreciate how good his music was. He was the best.