Notorious Jerry Lee Lewis has died at the age of 87, his agent has confirmed.
One of the last survivors of rock ‘n’ roll’s golden age, his life was also marred by scandal and violence.
Jerry Lee Lewis’s career was briefly halted when, aged 22, he married his 13-year-old cousin Myra Gale Brown.
The singer’s agent described him as “perhaps the last true, great icon of the birth of rock’n’roll”.
In a statement, Lewis’s publicist Zach Farnum said: “He was there at the beginning, with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and the rest, and watched them fade away one by one till it was him alone to bear witness, and sing of the birth of rock’n’roll.”
Jerry Lee Lewis passed away at his home in Desoto County, Mississippi, with his seventh wife, Judith, by his side, his publicist said.
The news of his death comes days after a hoax announcement of his death was reported by gossip website TMZ.
The Country Music Association tweeted: “It is with great sadness we’ve learned about the passing of Jerry Lee Lewis, who was just inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this month.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Born in 1935 in Ferriday, Louisiana, Jerry Lee Lewis later moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he found work as a studio musician for Sun Studios.
He made his performing debut aged 14, and through his childhood developed his love of boogie-woogie and blues by sneaking into a Ferriday nightclub that featured the era’s best blues musicians.
Myra Gale Brown, the singer’s cousin and the daughter of his bass player at the time, was only 13 in 1957 when she married the singer, who was then 22.
She claimed on the marriage licence to be 20 and the controversy of their marriage brought the singer’s career to a halt.
Jerry Lee Lewis ended up in jail in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1976 after he was found brandishing a pistol and demanding to see Elvis Presley outside Presley’s Graceland mansion.
Earlier that year, Jerry Lee Lewis had accidentally shot his bass player, Norman “Butch” Owens, in the chest. Playing with a loaded .357 Magnum, Lewis had reportedly been trying to shoot and hit a Coke bottle.
Norman Owens was badly injured but survived, and later sued his boss, winning $125,000 in damages. Jerry Lee Lewis was also charged with shooting a firearm within the city limits.
He suffered from various illnesses and injuries in the final years of his life, with doctors telling him they should have taken him decades ago.
The musician was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s first class in 1986 and a few years later, in 1989, he was honoured for his contribution to the recording industry with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Jerry Lee Lewis’s career got another boost in 1989 when he sang his songs for the movie Great Balls of Fire! in which Dennis Quaid portrayed him while Winona Ryder played Myra.
His last album was a gospel record with his cousin, lifetime televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who had preached against his music when they were younger.