The Tragic True Story Of Lisa Marie Presley

The following article includes references to drug abuse, suicide, and losing a parent and child. 

As the only child of legendary performer Elvis Presley and his wife, Priscilla Presley, it's no surprise that Lisa Marie Presley weathered more challenges than the average human (via Express). After all, despite the extraordinary experiences she was able to have, she also lost some of the most important people in the world to her, starting with her father in 1977. "I've dealt with death, grief and loss since the age of nine years old," she revealed in August 2022 (via BBC News). Additionally, Lisa Marie was married four times, the fourth of which saw her temporarily lose custody of her young daughters (per Entertainment Tonight).

Indeed, Lisa Marie was no stranger to tragedy or grief. "Grief is something you will have to carry with you for the rest of your life," she once said, "in spite of what certain people or our culture wants us to believe."

Lisa Marie's parents divorced shortly after she was born

Lisa Marie Presley was born on February 1, 1968, exactly nine months to the day her parents got married. The morning of her birth was certainly nontraditional: Classic Country reveals that even though her mother's water broke early that day, Priscilla Presley still had her hair and makeup done before her daughter's arrival, and Elvis Presley took his time getting out of bed.

Lisa Marie spent her early years at her father's home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. However, her parents divorced when Lisa Marie was 4 years old, which meant the young girl had to deal with a lot of change and upheaval. After Priscilla left Graceland in 1972, the pair finalized their split in 1973 (per Express). Lisa Marie began traveling back and forth between her dad's home in Memphis and her mother's home in Los Angeles.

Lisa Marie later explained that life at her dad's was pretty fantastic, especially for a young child. As she told Express, they shared some unusual habits, but they had a blast. Lisa Marie said, "(We would) Go to bed at four or five am and get up at two or three the next afternoon. It was always a lot of fun. There is not one bad memory."

Her father, Elvis Presley, died unexpectedly when Lisa Marie was only 9

Everything Lisa Marie Presley knew to be true came tumbling down around her on August 16, 1977, when her father, Elvis Presley, died at the age of 42. Elvis was discovered unconscious by his girlfriend, Ginger Alden, in his bathroom. His death was officially due to cardiac arrest likely exacerbated by his ongoing and persistent drug use, per Town & Country.

Lisa Marie later shared that "the last time I saw [my father] alive" was around 4 in the morning on the day of his death. She said her father found her still awake, told her she should be asleep, and tucked her back into bed (via The Coast). Lisa Marie added that her bedroom was next to the bathroom where her father was found, and she knew from the attention being paid to the room that something horrible had happened.

Lisa Marie worried about her father's health even as a young child, pleading with him not to die more than once. Per Express, she revealed he had collapsed before, and she was the one to help him recover. "It was just starting to become too common," she said. "He was not too happy. He was in such an ivory tower and so untouchable and so alienated."

If you or anyone you know is struggling 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).

As a young girl, she broke the news of her father's death to his ex-fiancée

Even though she was still quite young at the time of Elvis Presley's unexpected death, Lisa Marie Presley voluntarily took on quite a grown-up responsibility. In a fit of sadness and confusion, she telephoned the woman whom Elvis had dated for four years before he met his fiancée, Ginger Aldean. His former girlfriend, Linda Thompson, was living in Los Angeles when she received the phone call from 9-year-old Lisa Marie.

Linda later recalled how the phone call happened in her memoir "A Little Thing Called Life." As shared by People, Linda was floored when she picked up the phone and heard Lisa Marie's voice yelling, "My daddy's dead!" Linda also shared that the news hit her like a brick, writing that she found herself "frozen by a dread of acknowledging the truth." 

While she initially tried to deny the reality of what Lisa Marie was telling her, Linda's own experiences with Elvis made this news quite believable. As she also notes in her book, she once found her ex facedown in a bowl of soup. Despite his troubles, she shared there's one thing she knew for sure: "He absolutely adored his little girl."

Lisa Marie had few memories of her parents together

Because Elvis and Priscilla Presley divorced when Lisa Marie was only 4 years old, it's probably not too surprising that Lisa Marie admitted she didn't have a ton of memories of her parents together. In fact, when asked to recall a moment that included both of her parents, Lisa Marie told HuffPost the best she could do would be to share memories of them separately, explaining, "I don't recall a lot of them together. I have a few with them together. I was with them mostly separately."

Lisa Marie added that when it came to life with her father, her most vivid memories are of how their bedrooms were on the same floor at Graceland, which gave them a lot of opportunities to spend time together. Of course, that sometimes happened at odd hours, as Elvis stayed up late into the night and didn't mind if Lisa Marie did, too.

The star's first marriage ended in divorce

Lisa Marie Presley got married for the first time in 1988 to musician Danny Keough at West Hollywood's Celebrity Center International of the Church of Scientology. As shared by People, the wedding was attended by only nine people, including Lisa Marie's mother and grandparents, along with her mother's sister and three friends of the family. At the time, Lisa Marie was pregnant with the pair's first child, a daughter they would name Riley.

The details of the day were kept mostly secret, and Priscilla Presley's publicist, Paul Bloch, released a terse statement summing up the day's events. The statement read, "Lisa, 20, married musician Daniel Keough, 23, her boyfriend for the past three years. Priscilla said, 'I am thrilled for Lisa Marie. Danny is a great guy, and I couldn't be happier for the two of them.'"

Per the Associated Press, the pair welcomed their son, Benjamin, in October 1992. They ultimately divorced in 1994 after six years of marriage (via Country Thang Daily). Riley later revealed that while life with her mother was privileged, life with her father was quite different. She told The Guardian, "My father had mattresses on the floor of his apartments. He lived in cabins and trailer parks." However, Riley was quick to point out that life with her dad was pretty great despite his lifestyle, adding, "It was a good vibe."

Her second marriage to Michael Jackson was constantly scrutinized

Lisa Marie Presley met her second husband, the late pop music superstar Michael Jackson, in 1970 at an industry event. However, decades would pass before the two would reunite. When that happened, Presley was still married to her first husband, Danny Keough, and she and Jackson became phone friends (per Us Weekly). The two grew close as Jackson weathered allegations of sexual abuse, and Jackson and Presley made things official the following year.

In fact, the two made things incredibly official. As related by Us Weekly, they were married only 20 days after Presley's divorce from Keough was finalized in May 1994. Presley shared the news of their wedding in a statement, also revealing they had wed outside of the U.S. and that she would be working under the name "Mrs. Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson."

Though the two weren't married for long, their relationship was scrutinized almost constantly. Presley once explained to "ABC Primetime Live" that the insinuations regarding their marriage were hurtful, saying, "How can you fake this 24 hours a day — sleeping with somebody, waking up with somebody? I'm not going to marry somebody for any reason other than the fact that I fall in love with them" (via the Mirror).

Lisa Marie's marriage to Michael Jackson also ended in divorce

Unfortunately, Lisa Marie Presley's marriage to Michael Jackson ended quite soon after it began. Presley filed for divorce from Jackson in December 1995, only 18 months after their May 1994 wedding. Presley later defended her decision to leave Jackson because she felt she was unable to help him — or he was unwilling to let her. She told Express that her ex-husband's behavior made the decision necessary, explaining, "The hardest decision I have ever had to make, which was to walk away and let his fate have him, even though I desperately loved him and tried to stop or reverse it somehow."

Presley added that Jackson desperately wanted to have children with her, but she was still reeling from having left her first marriage and breaking up the only family that her children had known. Jackson pushed hard, telling Presley that his friend Debbie Rowe had already agreed to have his children if she would not. 

Despite their rocky reality, Presley later shared that she and Jackson contemplated getting back together before he died in 2009. In 2010, Presley told Oprah Winfrey they had an on-again, off-again relationship, saying, "We still spent four more years after we divorced ... getting back together and breaking up."

She married Nicholas Cage, but the relationship fell apart fast

After divorcing Michael Jackson, Lisa Marie Presley moved on to date actor Nicolas Cage. As reported by People, the two were introduced at a party in 2000 and got married in August 2002, though they quickly filed for divorce only three months later. Bizarrely, the divorce took quite some time to settle and wasn't finalized until May 2004.

Cage later discussed their brief marriage and on-again, off-again relationship with Barbara Walters, explaining that, while their union made sense, as they both hailed from famous families, their personalities weren't compatible for long-term love. He revealed that both he and Presley were a bit fiery, noting, "Oftentimes when you have two people who are very strong and their own personalities, and rather intense, sometimes you can have a hard time meshing" (via People).

Though it took some time, it seems that the marriage between Presley and Cage resolved rather drama-free. Ultimately, neither was required to pay spousal support, and each retained the assets they brought into the marriage (per People).

Her 2006 marriage to Michael Lockwood ended in another messy divorce

A few years after her marriage to Nicolas Cage ended, Lisa Marie Presley found herself getting married for the fourth time. This time, she married fellow musician Michael Lockwood, a guitarist in her band. Per The Hollywood Reporter, the pair welcomed twin daughters, Finley and Harper, in 2008.

However, it seems like things with Lockwood took a turn for the worst not long after. Presley filed for divorce from Lockwood in 2016, an act that kicked off a fierce custody battle over their twins. Per The Sun, in 2017, Los Angeles detectives raided Lockwood's home and seized computers after Presley notified authorities, claiming that the machines contained inappropriate photos and videos. Their daughters temporarily ended up in the custody of California's Department of Children and Family Services.

Presley's divorce from Lockwood was finalized in May 2021, according to People, and the two went on to share joint legal custody of their daughters, with Presley retaining physical custody.

Priscilla Presley was given temporary custody of Lisa Marie's twin daughters

Before her divorce from Michael Lockwood was finalized in 2021, Lisa Marie Presley endured a grueling battle as she worked toward that goal. Unhappily, this included temporarily losing custody of the twin daughters she and Michael share. Her mother, Priscilla Presley, was awarded temporary custody of the girls after they were placed into the care of California's Department of Children and Family Services. Priscilla was reluctant to speak much on the matter at the time. 

In March 2017, however, Priscilla revealed the twins had been living with her for quite some time. She told Entertainment Tonight, "They've been with me for — it'll be over nine months. They're great. They're doing wonderful. They're living a great life. They see both their parents, and we'll see what happens."

Lisa Marie and Michael sparred for years over their twins, with the former accusing her ex-husband of staging paparazzi photo opportunities while he was out with the girls (via TMZ). Lisa Marie also found herself unable to pay her divorce lawyer, which, as The Sun reported, resulted in her living with older daughter Riley Keough for a period of time.

The musician dealt with drug addiction at the age of 45

In August 2018, Lisa Marie Presley opened up about something that had caused a lot of pain in her life and which had echoes of her father's death written all over it: She developed a drug addiction in her 40s. While speaking to Jenna Bush Hager on "Today," Presley held nothing back (via Entertainment Tonight). For starters, her addiction began much later in life than a lot of people experience.

She said, "I was not happy. The struggle in addiction, for me, started at 45 years old. It wasn't like it was all my life." Happily, by the time Presley spoke about her bout with addiction, she had already recovered. Presley shared how her therapist called her a "miracle" and noted that she shouldn't be alive after overcoming everything she's experienced. 

Per People, Presley also penned the forward of the book "The United States of Opioids: A Prescription for Liberating a Nation in Pain," detailing her battle with opioids. She says she was prescribed the painkillers following the 2008 birth of her twin daughters but that "it only took a short-term prescription of opioids in the hospital for me to feel the need to keep taking them."

If you or anyone you know is struggling 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).

In 2018, Lisa Marie revealed she was in major debt

Drug addiction and divorce aren't the only hardships Lisa Marie Presley faced. In 2018, she shared she was over $16 million in debt — a number that feels nearly impossible to fathom for the person who inherited Elvis Presley's estate. As Lisa Marie's business manager, Justin Stiegemeyer, told People, the bulk of the debt was wracked up while her former team at Provident Financial Management managed her finances. He explained that the singer had not been informed of the status of her accounts and that, by the end of 2010, Lisa Marie was left with liquid assets worth $20,000.

According to Pop Culture, Lisa Marie sued Provident Financial Management for $100 million, alleging the company squandered the money she received from her father and his estate. She also alleged that her former financial advisor failed to accurately relay to her just how much she really had in the bank. The publication further revealed that of the $16 million, $10 million is due to unpaid taxes for the years 2012 to 2015 and that approximately $6 million was related to a home she owned in the U.K.

In 2020, she lost her only son, Benjamin Keough

In 2020, Lisa Marie Presley was faced with unfathomable tragedy again when her son, Benjamin Keough, died by suicide at the age of 27. Benjamin was found dead at his home in Calabasas, California. BBC News reports that Presley was devastated by the loss of her son, who family friend Roger Widynowski described as "the love of her life."

Benjamin was Lisa Marie's second-born child with ex-husband Danny Keough. A year after his death, Lisa Marie noted Benjamin's 28th birthday on Instagram, revealing she didn't anticipate ever recovering from losing him. She wrote, "I worshipped the ground you walked on, on this earth and now in Heaven. My heart and soul went with you. The depth of the pain is suffocating and bottomless without you every moment of every day."

At one point, Benjamin was planning to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and mother when he was signed to a record label in 2009 (per BBC News). Lisa Marie also previously revealed that both Benjamin and his older sister, Riley Keough, were supportive of her own music career, telling HuffPost that her son "loves" being out on the road with her when he could.

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

Lisa Marie Presley died at the young age of 54

On January 13, 2023, Priscilla Presley announced that her daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, had died at the age of 54. "It is with a heavy heart that I must share the devastating news that my beautiful daughter Lisa Marie has left us," Priscilla said in a statement (via Hello! magazine). "She was the most passionate, strong and loving woman I have ever known. We ask for privacy as we try to deal with this profound loss."

According to reports by TMZ, Lisa Marie died after going into cardiac arrest. She was found unconscious in her home by her ex-husband Danny Keough. She was then rushed to the hospital, where she died. Her death came just days after she had celebrated the biopic about her father, "Elvis," at the Golden Globes.

After the news of her death was announced, dozens of celebrities and friends wrote tributes. "Tom [Hanks] and I had spent some time with the family during the Elvis movie promotional tour," producer and actress Rita Wilson wrote in an Instagram post. "Lisa Marie was so honest and direct, vulnerable, in a state of anticipation about the movie." Actor and ex-husband Nicolas Cage told ET, "This is devastating news. Lisa had the greatest laugh of anyone I ever met. She lit up every room, and I am heartbroken. I find some solace believing she is reunited with her son Benjamin." It's clear the Lisa Marie will be missed by many and remembered for decades to come.