How nation music allowed Jerry Lee Lewis to differ his wild-man persona : NPR

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Lewis got here up in rock, however proved his nation chops on the 1968 album One other Place, One other Time. The music suited his piano type, and the lyrics match the feelings he introduced to each efficiency.


That is FRESH AIR. Jerry Lee Lewis, who died lately at age 87, was the final of the primary era of rock ‘n’ roll stars within the Fifties, identified for his wild man persona on and offstage. However within the wake of Lewis’ passing, rock critic Ken Tucker has been listening to a different facet of Lewis’ profession, his time as a rustic music artist, starting within the late Nineteen Sixties. Ken believes Lewis’ stunning nation ballads very effectively could also be higher music than any of his rock ‘n’ roll hits.


JERRY LEE LEWIS: (Singing) I have been the entire world over, plenty of locations I’ve seen. I’ve met 1,000,000 folks. However nonetheless, no person is aware of ol’ Jerry Lee. I’ve performed plenty of the whole lot, of us, from good to unhealthy to what you see. However I am right here to inform the world, no person is aware of ol’ Jerry Lee. Yeah, I’ve identified…

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: In 1968, Jerry Lee Lewis was at a low level. His rock ‘n’ roll profession had stalled after the scandal of his marriage to his underage cousin within the late Fifties. And by the late ’60s, his sound was irrelevant to rock music anyway, one of many some ways the Beatles had modified the tradition. He was about to lose his contract to Mercury Information when a Nashville producer named Eddie Kilroy made a pitch to his bosses in New York to chop an album of nation songs with Lewis. Since they’d all however written off Jerry Lee, Kilroy was allowed to do what he wished. And what Kilroy and Lewis and producer Jerry Kennedy got here up with was this.


J LEWIS: (Singing) One after the other, they’re turning out the lights. I have been feeding that ol’ jukebox simply to carry you tight. I assume it is for the perfect I simply put in my final dime. I heard you whisper we’ll meet once more, one other place, one other time. Chairs are stacked…

TUCKER: «One other Place, One other Time» hit No. 4 on the Billboard nation chart, the primary time in a decade {that a} Lewis track was in any Billboard Prime 10. The album of the identical identify went to No. 3, and Lewis’ nation profession was launched. There had all the time been plenty of nation in Jerry Lee. The native of Ferriday, La., had a twang in his voice, and he included a canopy of Ray Value’s honky tonk basic «Loopy Arms» on his first Solar Information rock album in 1958. The actual fact is nation music suited his rolling, tumbling piano type, and its lyrics suited the roiling feelings he introduced to each efficiency. So far as I am involved, you’ll be able to have «Entire Lot Of Shakin’ Going On» and «Nice Balls Of Hearth.» That is the Jerry Lee Lewis I wish to hearken to.


J LEWIS: (Singing) The information is out throughout city that you have been seen out working spherical. I do know that I ought to go away, however then I simply cannot go. You win once more. This coronary heart of mine might by no means see…

TUCKER: That is Lewis’ cowl of Hank Williams’ basic nation track «You Win Once more,» and I feel it is pretty much as good as Hank’s personal recording. Certainly, within the historical past of nation music, I feel solely Lefty Frizzell and George Jones are higher vocalists than Lewis. Nation music allowed Lewis to differ his persona to imagine roles that rock ‘n’ roll not often allowed. Take heed to Jerry Lee singing as a husband, a wayward cheater however one nonetheless very a lot in love along with his spouse, expressing uncommon gratitude on «She Nonetheless Comes Round (To Love What’s Left Of Me)» from 1969.


J LEWIS: (Singing) I do know I am not a mannequin husband, though I might wish to be. However payday nights and painted ladies – they do unusual issues to me. However when the social gathering’s over and the great is all she sees, although I let her down, she nonetheless comes round to like what’s left of me. Six days out of seven…

TUCKER: Lewis’ items as an interpreter of lyrics and the informal magnificence of his piano enjoying exert a strong spell. For a person who wrestled with the concept that his earthly conduct would condemn him to hell, Lewis had an uncanny feeling for religious music. Right here he takes the hymn known as «The Nice Speckled Fowl,» which might have been acquainted to the nation viewers as a signature track from Roy Acuff, and turns it right into a rousing solution to finish a church service.


J LEWIS: (Singing) What a lovely thought I’m considering in regards to the nice speckled chicken. Keep in mind her identify is recorded on the pages of God’s holy phrase. All the opposite birds…

TUCKER: Jerry Lee Lewis was a person of immense expertise and immense ego. By all accounts, the performer, who loved the nickname The Killer, lived his life in a egocentric manner and did many ugly issues. However he additionally despatched plenty of magnificence out into the world. It is extra for that magnificence, a lot of it embedded in his nation music, that I hope lots of people will keep in mind him.

BIANCULLI: Ken Tucker is FRESH AIR’s rock critic. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, Steven Spielberg. His new movie «The Fabelmans» is semi-autobiographical, primarily based on Spielberg’s childhood and teenage years, when he fell in love with motion pictures and commenced making them. It is also about his household and his dad and mom’ divorce. I hope you’ll be able to be a part of us. For Terry Gross, I am David Bianculli.


J LEWIS: (Singing) I get up within the morning. I am nonetheless crying. Sure, I’m. And on my lips, I can style your goodnight kiss. In my room, the perfume out of your fragrance lingers. And I do know there have to be extra to like than this. I look throughout my lonely room and see your image. Your loving, smiling face I do know I might miss. Sure, I might, darling. And I remembered to a different you are still married. And I do know there have to be extra to like than this.

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