Newton, MA — Shirley Lewis, 76, passed away peacefully at her home with her loving daughter, Angela, by her side on May 5 after a courageous battle with cervical cancer.
She was born in Sicklerville, N.J., Feb. 25, 1937, the daughter of the late Alma and James Lewis Sr.
Raised in New Jersey, Shirley moved to Vancouver, BC in the early 1980s where her career as a blues and gospel vocalist blossomed. Through the years, she opened shows for the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Ruth Brown. She moved to Newburyport in the late 1980s and quickly became an integral part of the regional blues scene. Known as “The Regal Queen of the Blues,” on stage the energetic Ms. Lewis was a dynamo. Her rafter-raising voice was a marvel of church-trained gospel and pure physical power.
In 1989 she won the Battle of the Blues Bands at Harpers Ferry, and in 2001 she was honored with a Blues Trust Lifetime Achievement Award at the Boston Blues Festival. She was also twice nominated for “Outstanding Blues Act” at the Boston Music Awards. The cream of the Boston blues world honored Shirley Lewis last February at a “Living the Blues” celebration of her life and career.
Apart from her musical skills, Ms. Lewis was known for her loving kindness, generosity and spirituality. Ms. Lewis sang at numerous charity benefits including those for women’s shelters and musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
In addition to her daughter, Marlene, Ms. Lewis leaves another daughter, Minerva Joy Kirby Yee of Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada; a sister, Yuma, and a brother, James II, both of Glassboro, N.J.; two grandsons; and four great-grandsons.
ARRANGEMENTS: A memorial service and celebration of life will be held on Sunday, June 9, at 3 p.m. at the American Legion Post 440, 295 California St., Newton, MA. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory to the “Shirley Lewis ‘Living the Blues’ Foundation” at any Bank of America branch which will benefit women’s shelters and a blues scholarship for aspiring blues artists.