Jerry Lee Lewis, 'Great Balls of Fire' Singer, Still Alive Despite TMZ Death Report

UPDATE: Jerry Lee Lewis, also known as The Killer, is confirmed to be dead now, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Read the full story here.

PREVIOUSLY: Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the last living architects of rock and roll, is still alive. TMZ previously reported that the "Great Balls of Fire" singer passed away at his home in Memphis after someone who claimed to be his representative told them he died. TMZ has since retracted its report.

Lewis' family announced last week that he was too ill to travel to Nashville for his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Instead, his family shared a photo of Kris Kristofferson presenting the induction medal to Lewis. The Killer, as he was known, also released a letter to accept the honor.

"To be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame is the highest honor in Country music," Lewis' statement read. "Through over 60 years singing music professionally, country has always been the genre where I felt the most at home – between my fellow artists, the radio, and the industry players -- some of them anyway. I am honored to be going into that Hall of Fame rotunda with some of my heroes – Hank Williams Sr., Jimmie Rodgers, and the like – not to mention so many amazing friends who have been so good to me through the years."

He went on to thank the Country Music Hall of Fame for its support and God for allowing him to experience the honor while he was still alive. "Since I could not be in-person with you today, I have asked one of my closest and dearest friends to accept this great honor for me – and he's no stranger to this process: the legendary, Kris Kristofferson," the statement concluded.

Lewis was born on Sept. 29, 1935, in Ferriday, Louisiana. After trying to hit it big in Nashville first, Lewis moved to Memphis in November 1956 to audition for Sun Records owner Sam Phillips. Lewis was signed as a solo musician and a session player and could be heard playing piano on Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash's songs. On Dec. 4, 1956, he played in the historic jam session with Elvis Presley, Cash, and Perkins, which was referred to as the "Million Dollar Quartet."

In 1957, Lewis recorded the songs that would cement his status as a rock and roll pioneer. "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire" perfectly showed off Lewis' incredible, fiery piano playing. Around this time, he was also refining his famous live act, when he would play the keys with his heel, kick the bench to the site and start playing standing.

Lewis' career took a hit in 1958 when it was revealed that his third wife, Myra Gale Brown, was his first cousin once removed. She was also only 13 when they married, and Lewis was 22. Lewis had to cancel a tour and his career went into an extended downturn. During the early 1960s, his only hits were a cover of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" and his iconic 1964 live album, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg.


Since Lewis couldn't get anything going as a rock artist in the 1960s, he decided to record Jerry Chesnut's "Another Place, Another Time." The song's surprising success on the country charts inspired Lewis to move to Nashville, where he recorded dozens of country hits into the late 1970s. 

Lewis has never retired and performed on stage well into his 80s. In 2006, he scored a hit duets album with Last Man Standing. He released his 41st studio album in 2014. Lewis was also one of the first members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy. He was married seven times and had six children. His first son, Jerry Lee Lewis Jr., died in a car accident in 1973 at 19. His second son, Steve Allen Lewis, died in a pool accident in 1962 at 3 years old.