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Jerry Lee Lewis' 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks
Jerry Lee Lewis performs on Oct. 11, 1986 in Atlanta
There’s no doubting that Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the architects of both the rock and roll sound and lifestyle. That’s a given. His wild concert performances have made him a legend, and there’s been enough behind-the-scenes drama in the life of “The Killer” to fill two or three lifetimes of mere mortals. Of course, at age 82, the singer is still living up to the mystique that he has created with an image that is larger than life.
If all you know about Jerry Lee Lewis are the tales of his marriages and legal escapades over the years, you need to educate yourself on the Jerry Lee Lewis song catalog. In 1968, the singer signed a deal with Smash Records, and began working with renowned producer. The resulting factor of that partnership was some of the best country music ever made--bar none. We shine the spotlight on many of those hits from the Smash/Mercury years and include a couple of Sun classics that were actually higher charting country hits than pop on this list that will hopefully make you take another look at this unique American music legend!
10. Jerry Lee Lewis -- "Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On"
A staple of the Jerry Lee Lewis song catalog, this seminal rock & roll tune was recorded at his second session for Sun Records in 1957. Believe it or not, though it remains one of his signature tunes, Lewis was not the first to cut the song. Two years earlier, it was recorded by R&B performer Big Maybelle. The song became Lewis’s breakthrough hit, topping the country charts, and hitting No. 3 on the pop listing.
9. Jerry Lee Lewis --"Chantilly Lace"
Lewis handled his transition to straight-ahead country so well that one might have forgotten that he was one of the pioneers of rock and roll. This 1972 cover of the Big Bopper hit reminded listeners just how lethal Lewis could be when the tempo was fast.
8. Jerry Lee Lewis -- "Once More With Feeling"
Pulled from Lewis’ album She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye, this 1970 hit featured Lewis lamenting his feelings about a relationship that had grown stale. The song just narrowly missed the top spot on the charts, hitting No. 2
7. Jerry Lee Lewis -- "Thirty Nine and Holding"
The last major singles hit of Lewis’s country career, this 1981 hit featured a man in search of his lost youth. Recorded while Lewis was in his early 40’s, you could tell that the singer felt each and every word of the lyrics of this track from his album Killer Country.
6. Jerry Lee Lewis -- "Another Place, Another Time"
It had been a few years since Lewis was a force in contemporary music, as the singer was still fighting his public image throughout the 1960s, but this Jerry Chesnut composition was the first Jerry Lee Lewis song to become relevant to a wide audience in a decade when it peaked at No. 4 in 1968.
5. Jerry Lee Lewis -- "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye"
From the pen of the timeless Mickey Newbury, who co-wrote the pain-ridden track with Doug Gilmore, this song served as the title cut for his 1969 album. It just narrowly missed the top of the charts, hitting No. 2, but was proof that just like with his Sun output being a primary piece of the rock and roll puzzle, he was on the way to creating something equally legendary with his Smash-era recordings.
4. Jerry Lee Lewis -- "Great Balls of Fire"
Though the song was recorded some sixty years ago, there has been no burn factor in this Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer song that became Lewis’ ultimate calling card. The song was a showcase for the up-tempo fervor that seemed to define the music of the time, and “The Killer” approached the song with full steam, making for his second straight country chart-topper the first week of 1958.
3. Jerry Lee Lewis -- "What’s Made Milwaukee Famous"
This Jerry Lee Lewis song became one of the greatest drinking songs in the format’s history, praising the effects that a certain kind of brew could have on a man’s outlook on life and love, though it might also have a detrimental effect on his actions.
2. Jerry Lee Lewis -- "Middle Age Crazy"
Sonny Throckmorton’s wistful lyrics about a man realizing that time is swiftly passing him by a little quicker each day found the perfect interpretation in Lewis’s heartfelt delivery, as this track became a fan favorite upon its release in 1977.
1. Jerry Lee Lewis -- "Would You Take Another Chance On Me"
There were few songwriting teams any more successful in country music than that of Jerry Foster and Bill Rice. This 1971 release wound up becoming one of the finest Jerry Lee Lewis song moments of his entire career, let alone his country years. As great as the lyrics and Lewis’s performance of the song were, the song might not have had as much power were it not for the dramatic intro of this Jerry Kennedy production that was straight out of the era of the 1970s.