No Crazy Dream

man on tracks

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. ~ Galatians 5:17

Now blue ain’t the word for the way that I feel
And the storm’s brewing in this heart of mine
This ain’t no crazy dream, I know that it’s real
You’re someone else’s love now you’re not mine

Yes, we are born into sin and it’s only through His grace that we are saved. Even then the temptations lie there, seething and waiting, just below the surface, ever lurking. Every day we face the ultimate decision and we must answer the ultimate question. The one that Lenny Kravitz so succinctly posed “Are you gonna go my way?”.

Crazy arms that reach to hold somebody new
While my yearning heart keeps saying you’re not mine
My troubled mind knows soon to another you’ll be wed
And that’s why I’m lonely all the time

It’s a constant struggle. One starts to wonder, can I ever really completely follow the straight and narrow path? We are perpetually torn and tortured within ourselves. I have been told that living in such a state is a sure sign of having received God’s most gracious gift. That only those truly saved will experience such constant turmoil; it is only those without this gift that can walk through this world without a troubled conscience.

Now take all those precious dreams I had for you and me
And take all the love I thought was mine
You know someday those crazy arms may hold somebody new
But honey I am going to be lonely every time

I’ve been reading Rick Bragg’s magnificent book, Jerry Lee Lewis – His Own Story,  and I can testify with certainty that The Killer – as Jerry Lee is known – was certainly not one of those without a troubled soul. Born into the Pentecostal Assembly of God and raised by his mother, Mamie, to revere the Gospel, Jerry Lee found it exceedingly hard to reconcile the devil’s music in his hands with the Godly beliefs in his heart. He once asked Elvis Presley a fundamental question that apparently had tormented him all of his life: “Do you think you (or me) can play rock-n-roll and still get into Heaven?”.

Crazy arms that reach to hold somebody new
While my yearning heart keeps saying you’re not mine
My troubled mind knows soon to another you’ll be wed
And that’s why I’m lonely all the time

Now, I still believe that Elvis is the true king of rock-n-roll, but after spending some time researching, one can see where the Killer may have a case to dispute the throne. The legend goes that Elvis came to the Sun Records Studios in Memphis to meet with Jerry Lee one day shortly before he was inducted into the Army and, with tears in his eyes, said simply, “You can have it.”

“Crazy Arms”, originally a  hit for Ray Price, was the song that first began to open doors for Jerry Lee – it sold 300,000 copies – but it wasn’t until the legendary Otis Blackwell penned “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On” took off that Jerry Lee shucked the “rockabilly” label and was catapulted to heights above Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly – and everybody else – in the rock-n-roll pecking order of the day.

A few of my favorite Jerry Lee stories:

  • After losing an argument with Chuck Berry about who would close a show, Jerry Lee stormed onstage and played “Breathless”, “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On” and finally launched into “Great Balls Of Fire”. He then pulled out a small Coke bottle filled with gasoline, doused the piano top and set it on fire. He finished the song with the flames still roaring and then sauntered past Berry offstage and said “I want to see you follow that, Chuck!”
  • In 1950 Jerry Lee’s mother enrolled him in the Southwestern Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas. During his first term there, he was invited to perform a solo at a student talent show and assembly. Jerry Lee was set to play the Assembly of God standard “My God Is Real”. When it was his time to perform, he announced “I understand we are going to have a little change in tempo.” His hard rockin’, boogie-woogie infused rendition had the students rocking and rolling in the seats, but the school’s dean expelled him the very next day.
  • Jerry Lee always swore that nobody had more faith in him – and his plans to become a star – than his Mom and Dad. After knocking around playing the clubs in Ferriday and Natchez, Mississippi for several years, Jerry Lee heard stories about how Sam Phillips was turning music into gold for the likes of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and, of course, Elvis Presley. He told his daddy, Elmo, who was out of work at the time, that he needed him to take him to Memphis’ Sun Studios to see if he could get a break, too. Elmo collected 36 dozen eggs over the next few days from area hen houses and sold them to get the money to finance the trip.

After all these years, the Killer remains steadfast in his two core beliefs: that he is the greatest rock-n-roller of all time and in the Gospel of the Pentecost. And he has yet to answer that fundamental question that has haunted him his entire life.

As he strolls his farm today in Nesbit, Mississippi, he often walks down to the railroad tracks nearby to see the big trains lumber through; some heading in one direction and some in the other. And he knows he’ll get his answer one day.

Listen to the song that started it all here:

And the song that made him a star:

And just in case you still don’t think he can rock-n-roll:

Sources for this post include:

“Jerry Lee Lewis, His Own Story” by Rick Bragg




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