Opinion

Lisa Marie Presley, Singer-Songwriter and Daughter of Elvis, Dies at 54

Lisa Marie Presley, the singer-songwriter and only child of Elvis Presley, died on Thursday in Los Angeles after a medical emergency and a brief hospitalization. She was 54.

Sam Mast, a representative of Priscilla Presley, her mother, announced the death in a statement. Earlier in the day, Ms. Presley said her daughter had been receiving medical attention but did not provide more information. Ms. Presley lived in Calabasas, Calif., west of Los Angeles.

The daughter of one of the most celebrated performers in music history, Ms. Presley followed her father’s career path. She released three rock albums, on which she set out to establish a sound of her own while also paying homage to the man who forever changed the American soundscape with his blend of blues, gospel, country and other genres.

Hers was a life tinged with tragedy. She was 9 when her father died in 1977, and she lost others who had been close to her along the way, including her former husband, Michael Jackson. The suicide of her only son, Benjamin Keough, at age 27 in 2020 hit her especially hard, an episode she wrote about movingly last year in an essay for People magazine to mark National Grief Awareness Day.

“My and my three daughters’ lives as we knew it were completely detonated and destroyed by his death,” she wrote. “We live in this every. Single. Day.”

The enormous legacy of her father was a constant presence in her life. On Tuesday, she was again celebrating him at the Golden Globe awards ceremony, telling Extra TV that Austin Butler, who won the award for lead actor in a drama for his performance in the title role of Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” had perfectly captured the essence of her father.

“I was mind-blown, truly,” Ms. Presley said. “I actually had to take, like, five days to process it because it was so spot on and authentic.”

In his speech accepting his award during the televised ceremony, Mr. Butler singled out the Presley family for its friendship and support as the camera panned to a visibly moved Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley seated at his table.

Ms. Presley in 2012 beside a display of her childhood crib at Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home in Memphis. Credit…Lance Murphey/Associated Press

On Sunday, Ms. Presley was at Graceland, her father’s estate in Memphis, to commemorate what would have been his 88th birthday.

Father and daughter were extremely close. Elvis once flew Lisa Marie to Idaho after she said she had never seen snow. He named his 1958 Convair 880 private jet the Lisa Marie.

Ms. Presley owned Graceland and her father’s artifacts, as well as 15 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises, the corporate entity created by a Presley trust to manage its assets.

Though Ms. Presley’s music career never reached the heights her father’s had achieved, his influence was evident in her music and lyrics. “Someone turned the lights out there in Memphis,” she sang in “Lights Out,” a song from “To Whom It May Concern,” her debut album, released in 2003. “That’s where my family’s buried and gone.”

In 2018, she co-produced an album celebrating Elvis’s love of gospel music and sang along with a recording of him on one of the songs. “I got moved by it as I was singing,” she said in an interview.

If her albums produced no signature hits, her last name enshrined her as a celebrity. And her star-studded relationships only deepened that perception. Foremost among those was her marriage, from 1994 to 1996, to Mr. Jackson. Together, the pair — one the daughter of the king of rock ’n’ roll, the other regarded as the king of pop — attracted the glare of cameras and bountiful attention. In August 1994, The New York Times reported on the couple’s revelation that they had married.

“After announcing a union that might have been conceived in supermarket-tabloid heaven and proclaiming a need for privacy, the world’s most famous newlyweds were holed up last night in a place not known for its isolation: Trump Tower,” The Times wrote. “At 5:40 p.m., a few hours after the statement was released in Los Angeles, the developer Donald J. Trump emerged from Trump Tower to the kind of reportorial throng normally reserved for the likes of, well, Michael Jackson or Donald Trump, and confirmed that, yes, the couple were ensconced on the top floor of the Fifth Avenue tower.”

There was speculation that the marriage was an effort to deflect attention from investigations into allegations by a 13-year-old boy that Mr. Jackson had molested him. For a time the couple portrayed a happy marriage — Ms. Presley said she wanted to be known as “Mrs. Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson.” But by the end of 1995 they had separated, and they divorced the next year.

Ms. Presley was married three other times; those marriages ended in divorce as well. She married the singer and songwriter Danny Keough in 1988, the actor Nicolas Cage in 2002 and, most recently, in 2006, Michael Lockwood, a guitarist who was music director of her 2005 album, “Now What.” They divorced in 2021.

Her survivors include her daughter with Mr. Keough, the actress Riley Keough, and twin daughters with Mr. Lockwood, Harper and Finley.

In a foreword to the 2019 book “The United States of Opioids: A Prescription for Liberating a Nation in Pain” by Harry Nelson, Ms. Presley wrote about her struggle with addiction, which she said began when she was given a prescription for pain medication after the birth of the twins in 2008. She quoted her own response to a point-blank question about her problem posed to her on the “Today” show in 2018.

“I’m not perfect,” she recalled saying. “My father wasn’t perfect, no one’s perfect. It’s what you do with it after you learn and then you try to help others with it.”

Elvis and Priscilla Presley with their daughter, Lisa Marie, after her birth in 1968. Credit…Associated Press

Lisa Marie Presley was born in Memphis on Feb. 1, 1968. “I’m a shaky man,” her famous father told reporters when his wife was admitted to Baptist Memorial Hospital for the birth, an occasion that made international news.

In “Elvis by the Presleys,” a 2005 book of recollections by Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley and others, Lisa Marie wrote of her childhood memories of her father.

“The thing about my father is that he never hid anything,” she wrote. “He didn’t have a facade. Never put on airs. If he was crabby, you knew it. If he was angry, he’d let you know. His temper could give Darth Vader a run for his money. But if he was happy, everyone was happy.”

Home life had its odd moments.

“One time in the middle of the night I’m awoken by this incredibly loud noise coming from my father’s bedroom, which was right next to mine,” she related. “I get out of bed and see the guys buzz-sawing down his door so they can move in a grand piano. He felt like playing piano and singing gospel songs.”

In the same book, Priscilla Presley wrote of Elvis’s tenderness toward his daughter in her early years.

“Twice he spanked her on her bottom,” she remembered. “Once she colored a velvet couch with crayons, and once she ignored his warnings and got too close to the edge of the pool. The spankings were restrained and also warranted. But poor Elvis was a mess afterwards. You would have thought he had committed murder.”

As a performer, Ms. Presley, whose most recent album was “Storm & Grace” (2012), knew her name would always be impossible to escape. But she was eager to be taken on her own terms.

“It’s my own thing,” she said of her career in a 2003 interview with The Times. “I’m just trying to be an artist. I’m not trying to be Elvis Presley’s child. And I’m not trying to run from it either.”

Kirsten Noyes contributed research.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button