The Killer transformed the lives of millions in a way Jesus could only have dreamed of
The Killer’s finally been killed, ironically, by old age and not a slug from an ancient revolver owned by a relative of one of the women he allegedly mistreated.
What do I know? Maybe the man was a saint, a super-woker from a time before woke. But it feels like the full stop of an era at just the right time. Time was, in the UK, that we had to look to America for our calloused artists, when popular music singers in this country were ironing off their northern twangs and picking up their ‘H’s and preparing for a stint at the Palladium we could rely on the Yanks for some pretty unashamed behaviour straight from the swamp, from the Saturday night shack.
It could be argued that the UK did its best to kill off the killer’s career, with the nation’s press taking particular umbrage with Jerry bringing his new bride of 13-going-on-15 years old with him to tour and consequently bringing the wrath of pent up Victorian hypocrisy down upon his head in one last crashing, grand piano-sized kerplunk before the Beatles and the pill did what rocknroll failed to do and got teenagers at it like rabbits.
Of course, it wasn’t the music. There had been plenty of ribald (and blatant) sex songs well before Jerry’s patented roll down the keyboard but they weren’t sung by young white men, nor were they, generally listened to by young, middle class white girls. Jerry Lee lewis was the accidental conduit of mythical Black America, injected into the teenage veins of baby boomers desperate to escape the long shadow of war and the bomb and, in the UK, still not quite established as that separate race, the teenager.
Jerry was unashamed. In the way he played, performed, (most importantly) wore his hair. Nowadays he might have been an anti-vaxxing, Trump-supporting, meat-guzzling Ted Nugent of a bozo. But context is everything. Just as ancient, once righteous hippies morphed into QAnon disciples and Hells Angels became the west coast mafia, at some point every outlaw will turn nonce. Little Richard - famous for his konk, for make up, for being kinky gay when it was dangerous to even think that way; Chuck Berry, famous for the holes above the women’s toilets in his clubs through which he peered; Elvis, for fried peanut butter and banana death fritters; James Brown for an angel dust-fuelled chase the wrong way down the highway; Buddy for dying for clean underwear; Gene Vincent for amphetamine addiction and a mashed up leg… but all of them responsible for two and a half minute revolutions that transcended their gnarly human mistakes and transformed the lives of millions in a way Jesus could only have dreamed of.