Thursday, October 01, 2015

TBT: Jerry Lee Lewis, "Breathless."

Jerry Lee Lewis turned eighty on Tuesday. This is testimony to the wonders of medical science, or divine grace, or both. It reminds me of the joke about the old Vermont farmer who, when asked the secret to his longevity, said, "I always drink new rum and vote Democrat. One pizen neutralizes the other." (The story dates from the time when Republicans were progressives and Democrats reactionary racists. History takes strange turns.)

I saw the Killer live once. It was in the fall of 1979, and I heard that he was playing at a place on East 86th Street called the Lorelei that evening. I hurried there, thinking it was already sold out, but was able to get in. The Lorelei was a German beer and dance hall (East 86th was once the heart of a thriving German-American community) that had been bought by someone who tried to make it into a country music venue (the "urban cowboy" thing was big in '79). The place still had its original decor. Seeing and hearing Jerry Lee singing and pumping his piano under pictures of Mad King Ludwig's castles was close to a psychedelic experience.

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