Lisa Marie Presley Was Never The Same After Elvis Died

The following article contains references to suicide and substance abuse.

Lisa Marie Presley was the apple of her father's eye, and when Elvis Presley, tragically passed away in 1977, her entire world turned upside down. Being the child of a music legend and having to share your father with the entire world was difficult. However, being in the limelight at 9 years old after losing a parent was far worse and it soon took its toll on Lisa Marie. Speaking to Rolling Stone magazine in 2003, Lisa Marie described the King of Rock 'n' Roll as "this huge, electrifyingly powerful, grand, beautiful presence." She said she experienced mental health issues and drug use after losing him.

On January 12, 2023, at just 54 years old, Lisa Marie died following a cardiac arrest. According to TMZ, she will be laid to rest at the family's estate, Graceland, close to her dad and her son, Benjamin Keough, who tragically died by suicide in 2020. Lisa Marie was the only child of Elvis and Priscilla Presley and is survived by three daughters — Riley Keough, whom she shared with ex-husband Danny Keough, and twins Harper and Finley, whom she shared with ex-husband Michael Lockwood.

Although Lisa Marie found happiness with her children, losing her father was something she never got over, poignantly describing love as being "beautiful and painful equally" (via The Guardian). Let's revisit Lisa Marie's incredible connection with her dad and how his sudden death left an indelible mark on her life.

Elvis was very protective of his daughter from birth

Lisa Marie Presley was born February 1, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, just nine months after her parents, Elvis and Priscilla, wed (via Rolling Stone). Her birth brought great joy to her father. In the book, "Elvis and Me," Priscilla recounted the first moment Elvis laid eyes on his daughter. "Elvis came into the room and kissed me, thrilled that we had a perfectly normal, healthy baby. Then he took us both in his arms and held us," recalled Priscilla (via Entertainment Tonight).

Lisa Marie often spoke about the close bond she shared with her father. "I knew that he was crazy about me," she revealed in an interview with CNN in 2003. "He let me sing for him at the table." In another documentary about The King's life, Lisa Marie described her dad, saying, "He was very protective, very adoring, very watchful." She shared that their connection was strong, with Elvis being the only one who could get her to take a bath as a child. Growing up, Lisa Marie said she was a big fan of her father's music. "I was always excited if I was on tour with him," she told Rolling Stone. "When he'd come on, I would just lose it ... you know."

Lisa Marie never publicly talked about the day her dad died

Lisa Maria's parents' marriage ended when she was just 4 years old, and her mother took her to Los Angeles. Although Lisa Marie would visit her dad at Graceland often, she struggled when away from him (via Rolling Stone). "I was crying every time I'd leave you, and then I didn't want to see you. I still keep my watch two hours behind," she wrote in her song "Lights Out" of the emotional time, referring to the time difference between Los Angeles and Tennessee.

Just a few years after the couple's divorce, Elvis died of heart failure linked to drug abuse (via PBS). Lisa Marie was at Graceland when her father died. As she was 9 years old at the time, she remembered what happened, but she refused to divulge much to the media. "I was there when he died. I was there for most of the summer. I'm actually not going to go into his death, the day of, the whole thing", she told Playboy (via in 2003. She continued, saying, "I avoid that in all interviews. It's not something I like to capitalize on — particularly for people's amusement."

During her life, Lisa Marrie struggled with navigating life without a father and making sense of loss at such an early age while growing up in the public eye, and this was undeniably tough for her, even as an adult.

Even before Elvis died, Lisa Marie was 'aware of his demise'

Lisa Marie's close relationship with her father made her worry about his well-being. As a little girl, she feared that her father would die in the years before his passing. Lisa Marie said that when she was 7 or 8 years old, she told her legendary father, "I don't want you to die." In a fatherly manner, Elvis responded to his only child by saying, "Don't worry about me. I am not going anywhere" (via Rolling Stone).

Despite his denial, Lisa Marie says she sensed that her father was struggling with his health."I was aware of his demise. His temper was getting worse, he was gaining weight, he was not happy," she said in an interview with Playboy (via "I saw him taking different pills, like a potpourri of capsules, but I didn't know what they were," she recalled. However, Lisa Marie said her father did not like being confronted about his health, or when she saw he was not doing well. "He would try to mask it for me," she said.

Lisa Marie felt like a 'lost duckling' after losing her father

When interviewed about her father, Lisa Marie Presley never shied away from expressing the pain she felt after losing him. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lisa Marie even suggested that her love for the "grandness" of the "Star Wars" character Darth Vader might be an unusual attempt to replace her dad and fill the void he left. "Maybe I have been in search of something like that [her dad's powerful presence]. It's very hard to compete with that in my mind," she explained.

Lisa Marie's responses about her early loss reflect her self-awareness about coping with a public life without her dad. She went on to describe the impact of her father's absence. "It's like a lost duckling who walks around looking for that [presence]; I'm not really doing that, but I guess in some weird kind of psychological bulls***, that could be what's going on," she said.

She felt connected to Elvis when she sang and asked him for help

In 2018, Lisa Marie released an album with a touching duet featuring her father's voice alongside hers. Lisa Marie took to Instagram to announce the release of her new album, writing in part, "This was the music he was most passionate about, and he was so at peace singing gospel songs. I'm especially blessed to have duetted with Dad on one of the songs, too."

During an interview with the British talk show "Lorraine," Lisa Marie said that although she didn't usually talk to her father, she would occasionally ask him for help. The singer-songwriter said she felt overwhelmed by the feeling that he was with her when she sang, saying, "I just felt like a hand came down to me." She also explained, "I just felt really emotional. It's never pleasant to sing and cry. ... You just can't do that in a good way so had to keep my composure, but I felt very connected to him and to the song."

She saw herself as being more like her father than her mother

Like many teenagers, Lisa Marie Presley's youth was filled with rebellion and a period in which she felt distant from her mom, Priscilla. "I really gave it to my mom, pretty badly," Lisa Marie said in a 2013 appearance on "The Talk." The singer said that she became closer with her mom as she got older but saw her as an overly strict parent, especially compared to her very lenient father. "He was not strict — at all," she admitted.

When asked which of her parents she felt she was more similar to, Lisa Marie told "The Talk" it had to be her dad. "I think probably more my father," she answered. "I lean toward that side of my family a little bit, although I have my mom's strength." She continued, "His personality and his intensity levels I can emulate pretty well, not intentionally, and obviously mannerisms, which I don't even know that I have, but yeah."

Due to her dad's fame, she became 'a tabloid queen'

Lisa Marie Presley never asked to be famous. Although she was proud of her famous rockstar dad, she did not like being bombarded by the media from a young age and was particularly annoyed at being constantly compared to her father. "I'm a tabloid queen ... princess ... whatever you want to call me," she told Rolling Stone, admitting that she would read what was said about her out of intrigue but that it was often fabricated.

Lisa Marie expressed her frustration with the way the press perceived her when speaking with Playboy in 2003. "I have to combat 30 years of speculation and tabloid stuff. I have to go out there and say, 'Hi, I'm not that person, '" she explained (via However, she confessed that she never had a great relationship with the media because one of her downfalls was her vulnerability.

"I realize why I feel vulnerable and afraid. A lot of people do interviews based on what their publicists tell them. I put my ass out there, cellulite and all," she said.

She turned to drugs in her teens and again in her 40s

In the memoir, "My Brother Elvis: The Final Years," Elvis' stepbrother David E. Stanley wrote about the King of Rock 'n' Roll's drug abuse problem and emotional struggles. Stanley described Elvis as "a man who was haunted by demons and insecurities that plague us all, and eventually lost the battle of addiction, as too many often do" (via People).

Lisa Marie inherited many of her father's physical features, and she also shared his love of music. But sadly, she also took on some of Elvis' bad habits. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lisa Marie admitted to taking drugs as a teenager. "I did drugs for four years of my life, from thirteen to seventeen," she revealed. Lisa Marie insisted she was never addicted to anything in her teens, adding, "I was just on self-destructo mode."

However, in 2018, she revealed that she battled with drug abuse as an adult. In an interview with the "Today" show, the singer said, "I've come a long way. I was not happy. The struggle with addiction, for me, started at 45 years old. It wasn't like it was all my life" (via Entertainment Tonight).

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She had several failed marriages with artists

Lisa Marie was married four times during her life and, sadly, each relationship ended in divorce. In a 2003 interview, the singer-songwriter told ABC News that when it came to choosing men, she's "completely insane," but noted there were "a few good ones," referring to her first husband Danny Keough, whom she married in 1988. Lisa Marie and Danny shared two children, daughter Riley Keough and late son Benjamin Keough. The pair ultimately divorced after six years of marriage, after which she briefly married the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, followed by a three-month marriage to actor Nicolas Cage, and a final marriage to guitarist Michael Lockwood (via People).

It's said daughters are attracted to people like their fathers, and Lisa Marie admitted to ABC News that she was indeed attracted to artists. "I like when someone's shaking it up, when they're different," she said. "I don't know why. I'll never know why. But it's just what I get attracted to."

The last time Lisa Marie walked down the altar was in 2006. Lisa Marie and Lockwood shared twins Harper and Finley Lockwood. By 2016, the couple filed for divorce and became caught up in a bitter custody battle, with Lockwood being concerned about Lisa Marie's sobriety (via People). In a 2009 interview with Marie Claire, Lisa Marie expressed empathy toward her then-husband. "I think it's probably hard to be married to me," she said. "Because s**t happens to me that doesn't happen to your average girl. You have to keep your eyes open." At the time, Lockwood dismissed this statement and said that Lisa Marie renewed his faith in love.

She became protective of her father's legacy

Lisa Marie Presley often spoke about her father being protective over her, but his little girl grew up to be one of his biggest defenders. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2003, Lisa Marie explained that she didn't like talking about the night of her dad's death, telling the interviewer to "just drop it'" and was frustrated when her dad's legacy was tainted by those that knew him.

She was particularly annoyed when she saw the documentary "E! True Hollywood Story: The Last Days of Elvis," in which her father's associates talked about his demise. "I couldn't believe they were trying to take his dignity — Sonny West, Marty Lacker, Red West, all these people that were worse than him," she told Rolling Stone.

It seems the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, with Lisa Marie proudly declaring that her mom, Priscilla Presley, has always tried to maintain Elvis' image. "She [Priscilla] has, up until now, steadfastly defended him and protected him beyond belief since ... from when he was alive to after he passed away," Lisa Marie told Today.

Priscilla sent her to a Scientology Center following her drug use

According to Karen De La Carriere, a former high-ranking member of the Church of Scientology, Priscilla Presley looked to Scientology in the wake of Elvis' death (via Daily Mail). She again turned to the church when her daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, started taking drugs. Lisa Marie told Rolling Stone that she was a "tortured teenager" who would act out by taking drugs to show her mother that she was unhappy. "Eventually, my mom kicked me out of the house and made me stay at the Scientology Center," Lisa Marie told Playboy (via Lisa Marie credited Scientology for curbing her drug use as a teen. "The smartest thing they ever did was put me to work with drug addicts," she explained. "That made me productive and responsible."

Although Scientology seemed to help Lisa Marie during her teenage years, she left the religion as an adult, explaining she "[uncovered] the fact that I was surrounded by people who were not well-intended, for one" (via Us Weekly).

Her son reminded her of Elvis and losing him destroyed her

In 2020, Lisa Marie Presley grieved the loss of her only son, Benjamin Keough. Keough died by suicide, and the tragedy opened up old wounds for Lisa Marie as she grappled with the intense loss as the old trauma of losing her dad resurfaced. Just five months before her own untimely death in January 2023, Lisa Marie wrote an essay for People describing her grief. "I've dealt with death, grief, and loss since the age of 9 years old. I've had more than anyone's fair share of it in my lifetime, and somehow, I've made it this far," she wrote.

In the essay, Marie noted that her son's resemblance to Elvis was so strong that it "actually scared" her and made her "worry about him even more." Lisa Marie was very close to Benjamin and recognized the power of seeking help. "Nothing, absolutely NOTHING takes away the pain, but finding support can sometimes help you feel a little bit less alone," she wrote.

In an Instagram post, Lisa Marie shared after Benjamin's death, she revealed that she and her son had matching Celtic knot tattoos. Lisa Marie explained that they carefully selected the design to express their deep connection: "We carefully picked it to represent our eternal love and our eternal bond." 

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.