Jerry Lee Lewis, a legendary name in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, joined the musical revolution alongside icons like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. His piano-driven hits like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” defined the genre. Yet, behind the scenes, Lewis’ life was a tumultuous journey through multiple marriages, each marked by its own unique twists and turns.
Marriage No. 1: Young Love and Musical Aspirations
In the summer of 1951, Lewis, a Louisiana native, met Dorothy Barton, the daughter of a local minister. Their union, marred by Lewis lying about his age on the marriage license, lasted only 20 months. Lewis, drawn to music more than preaching, embarked on his musical journey, leaving behind the commitment to become a preacher.
Marriage No. 2: A Forced Union and Unintended Consequences
Shortly after parting ways with Barton, Lewis found himself in another marriage, this time with Jane Mitcham. Forced into matrimony due to impending parenthood, Lewis found himself entangled in a complex relationship that eventually ended, leaving behind a son named Jerry Lee Lewis Jr.
Marriage No. 3: The Scandalous Union with His Cousin
In a scandal that shook the music world, Lewis, at the age of 22, married his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Gale Brown. The controversy led to his banishment from England, affecting his once-soaring career. The marriage endured for 13 years, marked by public scrutiny and allegations of abuse.
Tragedy Strikes: Losses and Grief
Despite Lewis’ fame, tragedy struck his family. His son, Steve Allen Lewis, from his third marriage, met a tragic end at the age of three, drowning in the family pool. The loss sent Lewis into a spiral of self-destructive behavior, marked by substance abuse.
Marriage No. 4: Legal Battles and a Sudden Demise
Marriage to Jaren Gunn Pate, his fourth wife, was fraught with legal disputes. Pate’s sudden death, coupled with accusations of threats and cruelty from Lewis, added a dark chapter to their tumultuous relationship. The circumstances surrounding her drowning in a friend’s pool raised questions.
Marriage No. 5: Financial Disputes and a Mysterious End
Jaren Gunn Pate’s death was followed by Lewis’ marriage to Shawn Stephens. The union lasted a mere 78 days, ending in tragedy. Stephens was found dead with signs of physical harm and a methadone overdose. The circumstances surrounding her death remained mysterious.
Marriage No. 6: Stability Amidst Turmoil
In 1984, Lewis married Kerrie McCarver, marking a period of relative stability lasting two decades. The couple had a son, Jerry Lee Lewis III, but the marriage eventually ended in divorce in 2005, signaling a return to the chaos that often surrounded Lewis’ romantic life.
Marriage No. 7: A Late-Life Love Story
At the age of 76, Lewis found love again with Judith Brown Coghlan, whom he met through a caregiving arrangement. The marriage, lasting a decade, provided a respite from the scandalous relationships of Lewis’ past. Brown was by Lewis’ side until his final moments.
Legal Battles and Family Feuds: Lewis’ Later Years
In the twilight of his life, Lewis faced legal battles involving his seventh wife and his daughter, Phoebe. Accusations of elder abuse, theft, and sedation created rifts within the family. A lawsuit against Phoebe and her husband added another layer of complexity to Lewis’ legacy.
Conclusion: The Last Note in the Ballad of Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis, the “Killer” of rock ‘n’ roll, lived a life as tumultuous as his music. From scandalous marriages to heartbreaking losses, his journey was a rollercoaster. Despite the controversies, Lewis left an indelible mark on the world of music, and his legacy remains a complex and enduring tale of fame, love, and tragedy.