Fans, Jimmy Swaggart Eulogize Jerry Lee Lewis

Hometown service honors 'a poor kid from Ferriday'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 5, 2022 2:50 PM CDT
Fans, Jimmy Swaggart Eulogize Jerry Lee Lewis
An accordionist plays "Amazing Grace" on Saturday after Jerry Lee Lewis's casket was put into a hearse in Ferriday, La.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Family, friends and fans gathered Saturday to bid farewell to rock 'n' roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis at memorial services held in his north Louisiana hometown. Lewis, known for hits such as "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," died Oct. 28 at his Mississippi home, south of Memphis, Tennessee. He was 87. TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, Lewis' cousin, told the more than 100 people in Young's Funeral Home in Ferriday, the town where Lewis was born, that he "lost the brother I never had" when Lewis died, the AP reports. "We learned to play piano together," Swaggart recalled. "I had to make myself realize that he was no longer here."

Mourners wiped away tears and sang along as two songs from a gospel album Lewis and Swaggart made this year—"In the Garden" and "The Old Rugged Cross"—were played during the service. "He was one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived," Swaggart said. Lewis, who called himself "the Killer," was the last survivor of a generation of artists that rewrote music history, a group that included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard. Xavier Ellis, 28, a Ferriday native now teaching in Opelousas, Louisiana, said Lewis' life is an inspiration. "He was a poor kid from Ferriday who made it to the heights he made it to. I'm very impressed with his life story," Ellis said. "I'm saddened by him leaving, but his legacy will live on." Tom Tomschin and his wife, Sandra, came from Cicero, Illinois. "We felt the need to pay our respect to the pioneer of rock 'n' roll who had a major part in the creation of and shaping of the genre,” Tomschin said. "I've been a fan my entire life."

Tomschin, 45, a government administrator, said “Crazy Arms” and "You Win Again" are two of his favorite songs by Lewis, whom he described as one of a kind. "He never lived a life behind a curtain," Tomschin said. "In his ups and downs, the good and bad, he did what he was going to do. Jerry Lee Lewis laid it all out on the table. There's never going to be another person like Jerry Lee Lewis." Sandra Tomschin, 44, a library director, said that she grew up on Lewis' music, and that it's left an indelible imprint on her life. "We love it," she said of his music. "We've been to several of his concerts, and even though he's gone, he will still live on in our hearts."

(More Jerry Lee Lewis stories.)

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