MEMPHIS – Ten days after her death, friends, family, fans, and admirers of Lisa Marie Presley gathered at Elvis Presley’s home Graceland to pay tribute to the daughter of the rock ‘n’ roll legend. Lisa Marie had long been a living link to Elvis for devoted fans of The King, who doted on his only child.
On the same lawn where earlier this month Lisa Marie performed a ceremonial cake cutting to mark what would have been her father’s 88th birthday, hundreds came together to say goodbye to her.
Lisa Marie’s mother, Priscilla Presley, 77, spoke briefly at the Sunday morning service. Holding back tears, she read some words prepared by one of Lisa Marie’s three surviving children.
“I have no idea how to put my mother into words,” Priscilla read. “Truth is, there are too many. Lisa Marie Presley was an icon, a role model, a superhero to many people all over the world.”
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She also shared thanks from the family for all the support in the wake of her daughter’s death.
“Our heart is broken, Lisa. We all love you,” Priscilla said.
Lisa Marie, 54, herself a singer, died Jan. 12 after an apparent cardiac arrest at her home in Calabasas, California.
Elvis Presley Enterprises managing partner Joel Weinshanker said Lisa Marie had given specific instructions for this day, including: “Don’t make it sad.”
“Lisa, we will try to honor you and honor your wishes,” he said.
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Despite that, the mood at the chilly morning service was somber. Even with hundreds in attendance, most of the ambient noise before the memorial came from slow Elvis music piped through outdoor speakers. “In the Garden” played as Lisa Marie’s family emerged out of the front door of the mansion prior to the service.
Her eldest daughter Riley Keough prepared remarks that were read by her husband, Ben Smith-Petersen.
“Thank you for being my mother in this life. I’m eternally grateful to have spent 33 years with you. I’m certain I chose the best mother for me in this world, and I knew that as far back as I can remember you,” he read from a message titled “A Letter to My Momma.”
Keough recalled listening to Aretha Franklin in the car, getting ice cream after school and the lullabies Lisa Marie would sing to her and her brother.
“I remember how it felt to be loved by the most loving mother I’ve ever known. I remember how safe it felt to be in your arms,” Smith-Petersen read. “I remember that feeling as a child and I remember it two weeks ago on your couch. Thank you for showing me that love is the only thing that matters in this life.”
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Speakers at the service remembered Lisa Marie Presley for her music, her spirit and the unique space she occupied in the hearts and minds of Memphians.
Jerry Schilling, a longtime associate of Elvis and friend of the Presley family, said he visited Graceland for Christmas in 1967. As he prepared to head home to Los Angeles, Elvis asked him, “You’re not going to stay for the birth of our daughter?”
So he stayed through Lisa Marie’s birth on Feb. 1, 1968.
“We got back to the house here. And I had never held a baby before. And we’re in the kitchen. And Elvis just hands me Lisa and I sure as hell wasn’t going to drop her. And that was the beginning of my journey” with her, he said.
The two stayed connected throughout her life. Lisa Marie – whom Schilling called “Memphis” – worked as his assistant and he officiated one of her weddings. He walked her down the red carpet at what would be her last public event, this year’s Golden Globes, and was at the hospital when she died.
“Memphis, I will always love you,” Schilling said.
Former Memphis mayor AC Wharton said, “Lisa Marie’s birth is woven into the institutional memory of this city … she was the image of a king.”
“Elvis may have been born in Tupelo and Priscilla may have started in Dallas,” he said. “But Lisa Marie was all Memphis. She belonged to us. And we belonged to her.”
Wharton noted that her birth year was a tumultuous one for the country and for Memphis in particular. She provided a bright spot for the city.
“She was a conduit to the throne, the keeper of the flame. She was the image of a king,” he said.
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, ex-wife of Prince Andrew, said those who cared about Lisa Marie needed “to stoke our flames within” to support her family and to celebrate her life. However, she also shared some words from Queen Elizabeth II.
“My late mother-in-law used to say … ‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’ And how right she was,” Ferguson said.
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Before a performance of “November Rain,” Axl Rose said he remained in shock about Lisa Marie’s death.
“I never in a million years imagined singing here and especially under these circumstances. This is truly devastating and I’m sure excruciating for everyone here and all of those affected by her passing,” he said.
Rose described Lisa Marie as fiercely protective of her father’s legacy and as “a beautiful and good soul.”
In addition to Rose’s performance, the service also included performances by Alanis Morissette, Jason Clark & The Tennessee Mass Choir and the Blackwood Brothers Quartet.
In addition to members of Presley’s family and those speaking and performing, Austin Butler and director Baz Luhrmann were at the service.
Butler played Elvis in the 2022 biopic about the rock star, which was directed by Luhrmann. The film was widely praised by the Presley family, including Lisa Marie, who said it was a representation of her father she and her children could be proud of.
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After the service, fans were escorted through the Meditation Garden to pay their respects. The garden is also the final resting place of Elvis; Lisa Marie’s son, Benjamin Keough, whom she was laid to rest next to; and other members of the Presley family, including Elvis’ mother, Gladys Presley; his father, Vernon Presley; and his grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley.
More than 100,000 people worldwide watched the service via livestream and left comments of love and support.