Lisa Marie Presley’s death on January 12, 2023, shocked the world for many reasons. Not only was she just 54 years old, but she was also the only child of the beloved Elvis Presley. She led an extraordinary and complicated life that echoed her father’s in many ways — including tabloid drama and musical success. Growing up in one of the most famous families in the world, she was constantly under the glare of the spotlight and the lenses of the paparazzi, and these photographs document her remarkable time on Earth.
On again, off again
Lisa Marie’s parents, Elvis and Priscilla, began an on-off relationship in the late 1950s until they finally got married in May 1967. Priscilla was only 21 years old when they tied the knot, and Elvis was 32. While living in Elvis’ Graceland home in Tennessee, the couple welcomed their first child. Lisa Marie was born in February 1968, and her arrival made headlines around the world.
It was the best of times
Priscilla wrote about Lisa Marie's birth in a 1985 piece for People. “Our daughter, Lisa Marie, was born at 5:01 p.m. on Feb. 1, 1968,” she explained. “The nurse brought [Lisa Marie] into my room, and I cradled her in my arms. She was so tiny – so beautiful.” And Elvis was equally pleased with their new arrival.
All shook up
Priscilla continued, “Elvis came into the room and kissed me, thrilled that we had had a perfectly normal, healthy baby. Then he took us both in his arms and held us.” This was a marked change of attitude from how he’d apparently felt about the baby just a few months before. Priscilla revealed that Elvis had asked for a trial separation while she was seven months pregnant.
She went on, “Within a short time, Elvis’ sensitive nature brought him back to his senses. Two days had passed. The idea of a trial separation was never mentioned again. We both acted as if nothing had been said.” Unfortunately, though, the happiness brought by Lisa Marie's birth was not to keep the family together forever.
An absent father
As Lisa Marie grew, Elvis started spending more and more time on the road. Priscilla wrote in her 1985 book, “Lisa and I visited him in Vegas for her birthdays, having huge parties in the suite where she received everything from slot machines to two Saint Bernard puppies... to an entire room filled with balloons — everything, in short, a two- or three-year-old shouldn't have and couldn't appreciate.”
Priscilla wrote of this period, “I don’t think Elvis really intended to leave me. It wasn’t his style. I later realized he had questions about how a baby would affect his life. Would his public accept him as a father? He wasn’t even sure if his fans had adapted to his becoming a husband. How loyal would they be?”
Trouble in paradise
Priscilla went on for People, “I realized that now that I was a mother, Elvis was uncertain how to treat me. He had mentioned before we were married that he had never been able to make love to a woman who’d had a child.” And, sadly, the couple’s problems continued to grow from there.
Dealing with the fallout
Despite appearing to the world like happy parents, Elvis and Priscilla eventually divorced in 1973, bringing their six-year marriage to an end. "Our principal concern was Lisa, whose custody we agreed would be mutually shared," Priscilla wrote. And despite the turmoil that racked Elvis’ life, his daughter would always remember him as a good parent. During a 2007 appearance on Good Morning America, Lisa Marie told Diane Sawyer, “He’d always wake me up to sing in the middle of the night — get on the table and sing. I remember him as my dad, but he was a very exciting dad.”
Not-so-happily ever after
Elvis passed away aged just 42 in August 1977. The iconic musician suffered heart failure, and his body was later laid to rest in Graceland. Even after Elvis’ untimely death, though, Lisa Marie and the rest of his family remained in the spotlight. And Lisa Marie explained that after Elvis passed away, she “couldn’t really process what was happening.”
Struggling with grief
Apparently, one moment was a real struggle for the young Lisa Marie: seeing her father’s body. Lisa Marie said, “I did a lot of strange things that day because it didn’t really settle in. I rode my golf cart. I ran around and smoked cigarettes at nine in the guard shack somewhere. I was crazy. I don’t know, I did, like, wacky things.”
Million dollar baby
So there’s no doubt that Lisa Marie’s childhood was far from ordinary. For one, thanks to all the money that her famous father had amassed throughout his life, she grew up as the heir to a vast fortune. And after her grandparents Vernon and Minnie passed away and she turned 25, the young woman was worth $100 million.
Lisa Marie endured plenty of ups and downs in the years after Elvis’ death. She was, after all, only nine years old when her father passed. But while she may have had personal problems growing up, she had no problems forming relationships. In 1988, for instance, she found love with rockstar Danny Keough.
The pair eventually got married in October 1988, before having their first child together the following year. Danielle Riley Keough was born in May 1989, becoming Elvis’ first grandchild. Lisa Marie then gave birth to her second baby three years later, naming him Benjamin Keough. But while that may sound like all happy families, the story does not have a perfect ending.
Lisa Marie’s marriage to Keough mirrored her own parents’ relationship; they, too, got a divorce after six years together. This was in 1994 when Benjamin was still a toddler. In 2003 she told the Star Tribune, “I don’t know how, but we’ve managed to stay close… There’s others that I have pain or betrayal associated with that I won’t have anything to do with. But [Danny] and I had a special thing.” After that, Lisa Marie engaged in several other high-profile marriages, including her union with Michael Jackson.
It was only 20 days after the divorce from Keough went through that Lisa Marie and MJ tied the knot — a decision that she would later claim to regret. In a 2007 interview with Marie Claire, when asked what her biggest mistake so far had been, the star said, “Leaving my first marriage for the person that I left it for.”
Protecting her kids
Lisa Marie even considered having kids with MJ, although she ultimately decided against it. In 2010 she told Oprah, “I was looking into the future, and I was thinking I don’t ever want to get into a custody battle with [Jackson]… I don’t want to go head to head with him, so I need to make sure that everyone around is good. I know; I’ve had children. I knew bringing children into certain circumstances; you have to make sure everything’s safe and secure and okay.”
In a Cage
In 2002 Lisa Marie married for the third time. Her new love was actor Nicolas Cage, who’s reportedly a huge fan of Elvis. Lisa Marie’s daughter Riley, then 13 years old, served as the flower girl, while Benjamin and Cage’s young son Weston were pageboys. At the time, the media also speculated that Lisa Marie was pregnant with Cage’s baby. But she was not.
An unhappy ending
However, the marriage did not last long. The pair were wed in August, and in November of the same year Cage filed for divorce. In fact, the divorce proceedings ended up lasting longer than the couple’s union: it was May 2004 when the paperwork finally went through.
Focusing on her career
Away from her love life, Lisa Marie kick-started a career in music, releasing three albums in nine years. Storm and Grace in particular got rave reviews upon its arrival on the charts in 2012. And in between making these records, she got married again. This time, the union lasted significantly longer than her other relationships, too.
In January 2006 Lisa Marie celebrated her fourth wedding, tying the knot with musician Michael Lockwood. In an unusual twist, her first husband, Danny Keough, was actually the best man at the couple's wedding. Some two years after that, she welcomed two more children into the world, giving birth to twin girls.
By the time the two new children were born in October 2008, Riley was 19 years old and Benjamin was 15. The twins were named Harper Vivienne Ann and Finley Aaron Love. Interestingly, twins are common within the Presley family: Elvis had a stillborn twin brother.
A tight-knit family
Lisa Marie now had a big family of her own. In 2009 she spoke about her life and her children on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She was still very close to Danny, she revealed, saying, “I knew that no matter what happened, we would always be connected. And I don’t know how I knew that at such a young age, but I instinctively knew that and had those children with him. And we are like best friends: brother and sister.”
Close with her ex
In the interview, Lisa Marie also explained that her ex-husband Danny Keough was living on the same property as her at the time. She said, “It’s hard to have that kind of relationship with your ex… but I think it’s very important if you have children with somebody to keep your responsibility. You don’t need to put what you guys went through or what you had with each other on the children.”
Oprah asked Lisa Marie, “What do you think you’re best at as a mother?” She answered, “Just overwhelming [my children] with affection and love. They need to push me off of them… And then having that versus being their friend – trying really hard to be their friend as well as be a mother. That’s the fence you walk, which is important because you can’t go too much on one side or the other.”
Leading by example
Oprah also asked, “How do you instill in [your children] what’s important as a human being? As a citizen of the world, your community, when you’ve got everything?” Lisa Marie replied, “You have to be an example. I’m not somebody who sits around. I’m not happy unless I’m helping other people. And they watch me, and they see that.”
The family resemblance
And the family bond never went away. In June 2019 Lisa Marie posted an Instagram picture of herself and all four of her children, captioned “Mama Lion with cubs.” People were seemingly awestruck at how much Benjamin looked like Elvis. One commenter wrote, “Your son is almost a twin to your dad! Thanks for sharing this pic!”
Gone too soon
Sadly, though, Benjamin never got the chance to show the world his full potential. On July 12, 2020, Benjamin died by suicide. At the time, Lisa Marie’s manager, Roger Widynowski, shared that the mother was “heartbroken, inconsolable, and beyond devastated.” Lisa Marie would expand upon her overwhelming loss in an essay she wrote for People in 2022.
A mother's love
She wrote, “My and my three daughters' lives as we knew it were completely detonated and destroyed by his death. We live in this every. Single. Day.” But, she said, she carried on because that's what Benjamin would have wanted: “I keep going because my son made it very clear in his final moments that taking care of his little sisters and looking out for them were on the forefront of his concerns and his mind.”
Life cut short
Lisa Marie's own life would be tragically cut short on January 12, 2023. She was only 54 years old. “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. “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.”
A devastating loss
Other members of Lisa Marie’s family released a separate statement that said they were “shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Lisa Marie. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love, and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.” Other tributes were quick to come in, too.
Rita Wilson — Tom Hanks' wife — said, “Our hearts are broken with the sudden and shocking passing of Lisa Marie Presley tonight. Tom and I had spent some time with the family during the Elvis movie promotional tour. Lisa Marie was so honest and direct, vulnerable, in a state of anticipation about the movie. She spoke so eloquently about her father.”
Lisa Marie had last been seen only two days before her death at the Golden Globes. She had been there to see Austin Butler pick up an award for playing her father in Elvis. Lisa Marie had been a fan of his performance. She said, “I really didn’t know what to do with myself after I saw it. I had to take, like, five days to process it because it was so incredible and so spot on and just so authentic.”