“It is with a heavy heart that I must share the devastating news that my beautiful daughter Lisa Marie has left us,” Priscilla Presley said in a statement to The Associated Press. “She was the most passionate, strong and loving woman I have ever known.”
A subsequent statement sent to USA TODAY on behalf of Priscilla and the Presley family expressed shock at “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.”
Presley had started the week in a festive mood, first celebrating what would have been her father's 88th birthday with fans at Elvis' Memphis home, Graceland, and later tearfully applauding alongside her mother Priscilla as Austin Butler received a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of the King of Rock 'n' Roll in Baz Luhrmann's biopic "Elvis."
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But on Thursday, she suffered apparent cardiac arrest at her home in Calabasas, just north of Los Angeles, and was transported to a local hospital, according to TMZ, the first to report the news. She died hours later.
Although Presley was famous from the moment she was born and a singer in her own right, releasing three albums, she truly leaped into the pop culture vortex with her surprise marriage to embattled pop superstar Michael Jackson and, later, Elvis aficionado and actor Nicolas Cage.
Both those marriages were short-lived, although more lasting unions brought four children, including her son, Benjamin Keough, who died by suicide in 2020 and was laid to rest at Graceland.
Mostly, Presley, with her hooded eyes and smoldering looks that were patently reminiscent of Elvis, became known largely as the keeper of his legacy and the inheritor of his estate.
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Four days before her death, Presley was in attendance at Graceland to help fans celebrate what would have been her father's 88th birthday.
“It’s been a while. I missed you," she told the gathered crowd on Sunday. "I keep saying you’re the only people that can bring me out of my house. I’m not kidding."
Two nights ago, Butler thanked her from the Golden Globes stage for her dedication to honoring her father.
"Thank you for opening your hearts, your memories, your home to me," he told the Presleys in his acceptance speech. "Lisa Marie, Priscilla, I love you forever."
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Lisa Marie Presley grew up in the shadow of her father's fame – her name even adorning her dad's jet – until her parents' divorce in 1973. She seemed destined to lead a life in the public eye, thanks to both looks that mirrored those of her father as well as a notable singing voice to match.
Despite being the only child of a global icon, Presley at times seemed to wonder what all the fuss over her was about.“I thought it was an amusing notion, but I didn’t really see how other people would find it interesting," she told USA TODAY in 2012, discussing a new Graceland exhibit called "Elvis ...Through His Daughter's Eyes."
Among the more touching personal effects were a blue record player that spun her first 45s, her footprints stamped on a hospital birth record, and a re-creation of Presley’s nursery. "It’s all so personal and subjective," she said. "But it turned out well.”
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She made pop culture waves in 1994 when she divorced musician Danny Keough, the father of her children Riley and Benjamin, and married Jackson. Less than two years later, they divorced, although Presley remained a staunch defender throughout years of accusations of child abuse brought against the star.
She married Cage in 2002, but that lasted just a few months before they split. In 2006, she married guitarist Michael Lockwood; they officially divorced in 2021 and have twin daughters together, Finley and Harper, 11.
If Presley found solace amid the storm of being the only child of Elvis, it was overseas in Kent, a bucolic English suburb southeast of London that claimed a lot of her time and heart about a decade ago.
Speaking to USA TODAY in 2012 before the release of her album "Storm & Grace," Presley said she was eager to get back to her non-celebrity life in England.
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"I just love it over there," she said. "I garden, go on long walks, cook. I have really sweet neighbors – we'll often meet up down at the local pub. Not that we can keep up with them there. It's so fun, though, it's where you see everyone from the village."
In that same interview, Presley spoke of feeling emotionally and fiscally robbed by her closest confidants.
"I was slowly starting to self-destruct, and I didn't know where that was coming from," Presley told USA TODAY, and suggested the damage was both personal and professional. "I got bad advice. I was insulated with no grip on reality. They were taking my soul, my money, my everything."
Presley's demons also included drug addiction. In 2019, she detailed her dependence on opioids in a foreword to the book "The United States of Opioids: A Prescription for Liberating a Nation in Pain."
Noting that she felt "grateful to be alive," Presley said painkillers prescribed after the birth of her twins eventually led to a full-blown addiction.
"It's a difficult path to overcome this dependence, and to put my life back together," she wrote. "Even in recent years, I have seen too many people I loved struggle with addiction and die tragically from this epidemic. It is time for us to say goodbye to shame about addiction. We have to stop blaming and judging ourselves and the people around us. … That starts with sharing our stories."
Presley would be forced to confront a different kind of pain in 2020, when her 27-year-old son died by suicide. This past fall, in honor of National Grief Awareness day, Presley wrote an essay for People about the pain her family has dealt with since the incident.
“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,” she wrote. “Grief is something you will have to carry with you for the rest of your life, in spite of what certain people or our culture wants us to believe. You do not ‘get over it,’ you do not ‘move on,’ period.”
In the end, Lisa Marie Presley might well have found the peace she sought throughout her life if she'd only been able to spend more time in the place she truly called home.
"I love Graceland," she told USA TODAY in 2012 of her childhood home. "My heart will always be there."
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