The Elvis Presley daughter struggled in and out of the spotlight, yet she managed to succeed on her own.
Celebrity children are regularly unfairly the target of media attention, especially when the celebrity is the subject of graphic tabloid stories. Lisa Marie Presley, 54, who passed away on Thursday at her home after reportedly going into cardiac arrest, had known this to be true at a young age.
When she first noticed fans skulking in trees and breaking into her family’s house, Graceland, she was only a young child. Her response was shrewd and resolute. She told Rolling Stone in 2003, “People would hand me cameras and I’d take money and say I was going to take a photo of my father, and then I’d throw the camera away.
On the other side, tragedy scarred Lisa Marie’s early life. She supposedly saw the failed attempts to save her father’s life as she was present at Graceland the day he passed away in 1977. She made it clear the day had a big impact on her in the same Rolling Stone interview.
It is sad to imagine a nine-year-old experiencing anything so terrible, especially given that she was forced to gain notoriety. (For instance, Lisa Marie frequently made news in the years after her father’s passing as a result of the litigation surrounding Elvis Presley’s inheritance.) Lisa Marie was aware that her famous name came before her, despite Priscilla Presley’s efforts to protect her from the pressures of being Elvis Presley’s daughter.
“I’ve always had an intimidating strength,” she told Playboy in 2003. “It’s a defense mechanism. Every child in every school would dislike me and believe I was arrogant. However, I was not.”
Presley, however, never shied away from her father’s music or legacy; she was always proud of him and made use of her notoriety to aid others. The Presley Charitable Foundation, a non-profit organization she founded, sponsors The Dream Factory, a charity akin to Make-A-Wish, and Presley Place-New Orleans, a residence for homeless families.
As a young child, Presley had a passion for music and even sang for her father. She admitted to liking his music and claimed she was drawn to “the melancholy [songs] that weren’t especially a blockbuster on the radio,” according to Rolling Stone. She thus made posthumous duets with her father on In the Ghetto and I Love You Because on multiple occasions around the anniversary of his passing.
However, Presley did not pursue a solo music career right away. “I didn’t want to learn the ropes in front of everyone; I couldn’t afford it,” she explained to Playboy. “I knew there would be more focus on me than anyone else releasing a debut record.”
Despite pressure, she persisted in penning autobiographical songs for her 2003 album To Whom It May Concern. In the US and the UK, the modest pop ballad Lights Out mentioned Graceland’s cemetery and how she was “keeping [my] watch two hours behind” in memory of her father. The more reserved Nobody Noticed, the less they noticed. It was a moving ode, “All that you had to bear / I think nobody noticed.”
Presley matched these songs with frank assessments of her own life. “In this record, I walked back through a lot of the dark passages of my life,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I wanted people to recognize me based on my music, not what they read in the newspapers.”
She carved out her own path in music, working with pop-rock producers on To Whom It May Concern like Glen Ballard and Clif Magness, and co-writing a song with Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan. The CD consequently has a contemporary pop-rock vibe with hints of country and blues.
She essentially took over songwriting duties for her second album, Now What, which was released in 2005. Although the album featured a rendition of Don Henley’s iconic Dirty Laundry, Presley came off as much more at ease on the record as a poet and performer. She adopted a more straightforward rock style that complemented her smokey, bluesy vocals, notably a soulful rendition of the Ramones’ Here Today, Gone Tomorrow. Her rock ‘n’ roll resume was further enhanced by a live duet with Pat Benatar on the latter’s Heartbreaker.
Presley’s final studio album, Storm & Grace, took things one step further. The album, which was produced by T Bone Burnett, is made up of moody Americana and blues songs with intricate arrangements and a distinct country-soul feel. Additionally, Presley discovered her voice as a vulnerable vocalist, particularly on gorgeous, simple ballads.
In retrospect, it’s difficult not to draw connections between Storm & Grace and her father’s music; the record even prompted Presley to make her Grand Ole Opry debut. “I think it’s a unique mix of many different things,” she told Billboard in 2012. “I’m not sure if it’s considered Americana. It has a bluesy feel to it. Everything inspires me.”
The family also started to play a significant role in Presley’s life outside of music. Riley and Benjamin were her only children from her previous marriage to Danny Keough. The latter has grown to be a well-known performer and is currently seen in the eagerly awaited online adaptation of the book Daisy Jones & The Six. She also received a Caméra d’Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival for her feature film directing debut, War Pony.
Unfortunately, Lisa Marie’s life became tabloid fodder due to many high-profile romances. Presley first came under fire for her marriage to (and later divorce from) late music sensation Michael Jackson, followed by a brief relationship with Nicolas Cage. This keen interest in her life extended to her religious beliefs (she was a Scientologist before leaving the group in 2014) and substance abuse (a teenage dalliance with drugs and opioid addiction). Her teenage twin girls, Harper and Finley, were the subject of a public custody fight with her ex-husband Michael Lockwood in recent years.
Lisa Marie endured another unspeakable tragedy when her son Benjamin committed suicide in 2020. Presley was candid about the impact of her son’s loss and her great sorrow in an essay published in 2022 on National Grief Awareness Day. Nonetheless, she emphasized her fortitude. “I’ve been dealing with death, sadness, and loss since I was nine. I’ve seen more than my fair share of it, yet I’ve made it this far.”
Indeed, viewing Lisa Marie Presley’s life as a sequence of disasters is reductive and unfair. The premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s renowned Elvis film was a ray of hope that seemed to point to better times. Presley was at Graceland last Sunday, celebrating her father’s birthday, before heading to the Golden Globes on Tuesday night, where she interrupted Austin Butler’s red-carpet interview.
Butler praised the Presley family for “opening your hearts, your memories, your home to me” after winning the Oscar for best actor in a drama motion picture for his portrayal of Elvis. He specifically thanked Lisa Marie and Priscilla. The former appeared moved, echoing her comments at Graceland and elsewhere. “I thought the movie was great,” Lisa Marie stated the previous Sunday in Memphis. “I’m quite proud of it, and I hope you are as well.”
Details of what was discovered at Lisa Marie Presley’s death scene have emerged…
Before her death, Presley reportedly complained of stomach issues. Prior to being transported to the hospital, her heart was restarted at the scene, she coded multiple times before her death.
It was also reported that no narcotics were discovered at the scene. However, the formal cause of death has yet to be determined. Her death is currently thought to have been caused by cardiac arrest.
The same thing killed her father Elvis.
Our thoughts are with the Presley family. Rest in peace, Lisa.