A Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis

At a recent concert, Rick Springfield paid tribute to musical legend Jerry Lee Lewis, who died on Oct. 28, by performing “Great Balls of Fire.”

Here’s a flashback from a 2016 fan trip, where he sang the song, with Tim Gross on keyboard and sharks swimming in the background:

I saw Jerry Lee Lewis perform live in June 1999, at the same venue I saw RS perform about three months later that year, in September 1999, so they’ve shared the same stage in the past. (Actually, probably many stages, since they’ve probably toured many of the same cities through the years.) This was also the venue where RS performed during his most recent concert in Arizona this past August, at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix.

I don’t remember much about the Jerry Lee Lewis concert (it was back before I had a cell phone and I don’t have any pics or videos from that concert), but that it was cool to hear him performing “Great Balls of Fire” live. I remember expecting him to start jumping around and playing the piano with his feet (as he did in performances in his younger days), but he appeared to be pretty frail, although he was only 64 at the time. (My perception of age has certainly been skewed seeing RS perform these past few years, as his energy on stage at age 73 is amazing.)

My only other knowledge of Jerry Lee Lewis comes from “The Million Dollar Quartet” and Dennis Quaid’s role in “Great Balls of Fire,” so I don’t really have much more to add here except appreciation for his musical contributions to the world.

Speaking of works of art based on musician’s lives, the “Late, Late at Night” musical based on Rick Springfield’s autobiography, is still going strong and is scheduled to be performed in Sydney, RS’s birthplace, on Nov. 11. (The playwright Kieran Carroll was recently interviewed on the Radio Carrum podcast.)

Sad news

Sad news from the RS family this afternoon, as posted on Rick Springfield’s Facebook page:

I never thought I’d write this but to all who knew our amazing front-of-house mixer and my studio master of sound for my last 12 albums, Matty Spindel, it’s my heartbroken duty to tell you that he has gone home today and is in no more pain. He passed at 1 pm from pancreatic cancer. Anyone wishing to honor his memory please donate to your local animal welfare, Matty loved animals. Here is the last photo taken of me with our great friend, master mixer, brilliant sound man, crappy Monopoly player, and chocolate doughnut lover… And lover of all things with four legs. May the angels welcome him with open arms. God bless your spirit my dear friend.

(photo courtesy of Windy Wagner who was at our last session with Matty at the Black lagoon)

So heartbreaking – condolences to all his family and friends.

He’s been such a big part of RS’s life for so many years – working on his albums and his tours – his presence was just a given on RS projects. He also seemed to be sort of a meet-and-greet (both the official and unofficial ones) gatekeeper, as he was there two times when I was able to meet RS after a show. Once he was keeping the line moving and once he reminded a small group of fans waiting for RS after the show that the band needed to go eat.

I found one picture that I took after a March 2015 show in San Tan Valley, Arizona:

I’m not 100% sure about this, but I think this is him at work – at the Vegas show in October 2015.

And I think he may be in this video as well from that night.

Although he was known among RS fans as somebody who did NOT like his photo taken, he was an incredible photographer and occasionally shared his photos (often travel-related) on social media.

It’s heartbreaking that he had to go through pancreatic cancer, a brutal disease that often isn’t diagnosed until after it spreads too much to effectively treat. (My mom died shortly after she turned 52, six weeks after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.) I hope he wasn’t in too much pain and that he was surrounded by loved ones to know how much he was appreciated.

There’s an interview with him back from the Karma tour, which is in the rickspringfield.us archives, which gives you an idea of his sense of humor – read it here.

Thank you, Matty, for all the great mixing for so many of the albums that RS fans enjoy and for all the great sound at RS shows through the years, as well as being a source of support and love for the RS team. You will be missed.