Jerry Lee Lewis had a controversial married life, with seven wives – from his 13-year-old cousin to tragic drowning
Apart from his musical contributions, Jerry Lee Lewis was widely recognized for his contentious personal life, especially his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin.
The singer, who died at the age of 87, tied the knot seven times in total. His third marriage, in 1958, was to Myra Gale Brown, a first cousin once removed.
As a result of the success of 1957’s A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, 1958’s Great Balls of Fire, and 1960s Breathless, Lewis was already well-known when he married 13-year-old Mrya.
The performer claimed that Myra was only 14, but when British journalists discovered the reality, they went crazy. His UK tour was cut short after only three shows due to adverse audience reaction.
His American career took a nosedive, and he was ostracised across the country. He spent years alone before finding solace in country music and Nashville, where his tunes quickly rose to the top of the charts.
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Lewis, a native of Louisiana, got married for the first time at age 16 to Dorothy Barton, the daughter of a local preacher. The union did not endure more than two years.
After his divorce from Dorothy was finalized in 1953, he quickly wed Jane Mitchum, and the couple was together for four years, during which time they welcomed two children.
Together, Myra and Lewis raised two children, Steve and Phoebe, over the course of more than a decade of marriage. Steve, only three years old when he died, tragically drowned in a pool.
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The rock star married Jaren Gunn Pate in 1971, and she drowned in a pool in 1982, weeks before their divorce was finalized. Ten weeks after he married her, his fourth wife, Shawn Stephens, died of an overdose.
Lewis married Kerrie McGarver in 1984, and they spent the next 21 years together, during which time they welcomed their son, Jerry Lee Lewis Jr. Their 19-year-old son was killed when the jeep he was riding in rolled.
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In 2012, on his seventh and final try, he tied the knot with Judith Brown, the ex-wife of his cousin Rusty. Lewis’ publicist, Zach Farnum, called him the “last great emblem of the genesis of rock ‘n’ roll,” praising the singer for “marrying blues, gospel, country, honky tonk, and raw, pounding stage performances that so scared a young Elvis Presley that it made him cry.”
It was said of him, “He was there at the beginning, with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, and the others, and he saw them slip away one by one until it was just him alone to bear witness, to sing of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.”
The singer passed away at his Memphis residence. His wife Judith and his kids Jerry Lee Lewis III, Ronnie Lewis, Phoebe Lewis, and Lori Lancaster will carry his legacy.