×
Back to IndieWire

Jerry Lee Lewis Dead: Iconic ‘Great Balls of Fire’ Singer Was 87

With hit songs appearing in films from "Jamboree" to "Top Gun," Lewis was the subject of Ethan Coen's documentary "Trouble in Mind."

Jerry Lee Lewis dead

Jerry Lee Lewis

Getty Images

Jerry Lee Lewis has died at age 87.

The “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” singer, pianist, and songwriter passed away in Mississippi.

“Judith, his seventh wife, was by his side when he passed away at his home in Desoto County, Mississippi, south of Memphis,” Lewis’ representative Zach Farnum said in a statement shared with press. “He told her, in his final days, that he welcomed the hereafter, and that he was not afraid.”

Known as “The Killer” for the way Lewis would knock out audiences with his raw talent, the crooner skyrocketed to fame in 1957 after “Great Balls of Fire” debuted with the film “Jamboree.” The hit song played a key component in “Top Gun,” with Tom Cruise’s Maverick and Anthony Edwards’ Goose singing it on the piano in one of the iconic scenes from the 1986 film. The song is ranked as the 96th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone.

Lewis won four Grammy awards throughout his career and was recently inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, with Kris Kristofferson accepting the award on Lewis’ behalf. The “High School Confidential” singer was portrayed by Dennis Quaid in the “Great Balls of Fire!” biopic, which premiered in 1989 and also starred Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, and Trey Wilson.

Ethan Coen directed Lewis documentary “Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind,” which premiered earlier this year. The archival documentary was the idea of T Bone Burnett, with the IndieWire review citing the film’s focus on Lewis’ “live-wire force with more pure charisma and innate showmanship.” Coen’s wife Tricia Cooke edited the film, which centered in part on Lewis’ marriage to his 13-year-old cousin Myra Brown when he was 22. The marriage was Lewis’ third at the time.

The documentary premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.

“When T Bone recruited us, we looked at this archival stuff and, it was almost shocking,” Coen told Deadline. “The musicianship and his ability as a performer was unbelievable, but it was something we learned like you did. The guy was just a motherfucker…in every sense of the word. Jerry Lee was the original canceled person, wasn’t he? He was the trailblazer, man.”

Lewis shared Facebook videos throughout the year leading up to his death, including singing to fans.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , , ,


Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox