Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jerry Lee Lewis--Great Balls of Fire (1957)

     You know, being in the headlines for misbehaving has become a bit of an art form for rock musicians for as long as the genre has had a name. Some are calculating their bad behavior, some can't get out of the way of themselves, others just have issues that cause them problems (drinking, drugs, sex....all three...). None of them set the bar, for better or worse like Jerry Lee Lewis. Jerry didn't need artificial stimulation....he could raise hell without any outside influences....

     Watching him tackle a piano is a wonder to behold. There is no suggestive posturing or smouldering sensuality like Elvis. His was an all out assault on his instrument and on a daughters' innocence (or maybe not quite as innocent as parents thought). When he sang (or better yet when you saw him sing), "Great Balls of Fire", you knew exactly what he was talking about....and it wasn't Hailey's comet either.
     Part of this fascination has to come not only from his actual ability, but because of his background. Jerry and cousins Jimmy Swaggart and Micky Gilley all grew up listening much of the same music, and all three are fine musicians. Whereas Swaggart began doing the Lord's work, Jerry took the same influences and went the other direction with it, although early on at least he seemed to have the same love/hate relationship with the music as Little Richard.

     His behavior on and off stage has become legendary. The scandal that was caused when he married his 13 year old cousin took down his rock and roll career, although the 13 year marriage to Myra was long than his marriage to 5 of his other wives (his most recent marriage lasted 20 years....which gives 7 to anyone counting). His persona took one of a true wild man, and despite being blackballed from being played on the rock charts, he made a solid comeback as a Country artist from the mid-60 to well into the 1980's. Which by then, a new generation of rockers pointed to him as a major influence. He has enjoyed that status and continues to record....and raise hell from time to time....


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