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Elvis Through Lisa Marie’s Eyes – Keeping The King’s Legacy Alive for His Grandchildren

By Mary Ann Cooper

Editor’s Note:  In honor of the memory of Elvis Presley, GRAND Magazine is making a special offer to Elvis Fans: A complimentary subscription to GRAND ($19.95 value – 12 issues).  https://tinyurl.com/freegrandsub


Lisa Marie Presley

In 1977 cultural and music legend Elvis Presley died at his family estate, Graceland. This left his daughter, Lisa Marie, who was there on that tragic day, with much to work through after the grieving subsided,  including escaping her iconic dad’s shadow to forge her own identity and making sure her children — the grandchildren of The King of Rock and Roll — could do the same.

Like her father, Lisa Marie is passionate about music, and after years of having her music inspired by anger, she’s finally “shedding the barnacles” [1] of fury and overindulgences that she admits were not good for her. She released a new album this summer, borne of love and joy and entitled Storm and Grace [Watch video]. She says having her 3-year-old twins, Finley Aaron Love and Harper Vivienne Ann, has “softened” her [1]. And as part of that mellowing process, Lisa Marie has also been able to appreciate and cherish the Presley family estate Graceland, the scene of the worst event of her life, much more. Earlier this year she opened a new two-year exhibit there called “Elvis, Through His Daughter’s Eyes,” [Watch video] which has 200 items, including family photos and home movies chosen by her that explore her experience of growing up at Graceland and the relationship with her famous father. Artifacts also include Lisa Marie’s baby footprints, clothing, childhood tricycle, record player, crib, and a gold ID bracelet given to her by Elvis. She launched the exhibit on her birthday, admitting it was the first time she had celebrated that occasion there, but noting happily that family gatherings at Graceland are becoming more of a tradition for her and her husband, Michael Lockwood, and their young twins, as well as two grown children from her previous marriage to Danny Keough: Riley (22) and Benjamin (19).

Yet Lisa Marie concedes that living at Graceland as the daughter of a legend wasn’t always easy. She’s careful to make sure Elvis’s grandchildren appreciate the Presley legacy but aren’t overwhelmed by it. The twins, who attended the exhibit with their mom, are already beginning to learn how special their grandfather was. Lisa Marie recalls that seeing all her childhood trinkets and toys encapsulating her whole childhood in one room made her gasp [2]. Little Finley took note, pointing around the room to images of Elvis saying, “That’s my grandfather.” Lisa Marie explains, “They have a little iPod in their room, and I put his music on it. And they dance and I explain, ‘This is your grandfather.’ And they kind of just happily say, ‘That’s my grandfather.’” [1]

Lisa Marie’s older children appreciate their grandfather’s iconic status but have carved out their own unique identities. Riley, who is a model and actress with four movies being released this year, says nobody made “this huge thing” of Elvis being her grandfather. Elvis was pictures in a family photo album and loving stories Lisa Marie told about her relationship with her dad — from the golf cart rides on Graceland property to singing “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” to her at night. Lisa takes pride in Riley’s successful career, noting she “didn’t want her to have that shadow where she felt in competition and intimidated by anything. I wanted my children to be able to do anything they wanted to do.” [3]

Benjamin, who has the same sultry look as Elvis, is following in the musical footsteps of his grandfather and mother. In 2009 he signed a multimillion-dollar five-album deal with the record company Universal. But Benjamin doesn’t intend to be his grandfather’s clone. He explains, “The music will be nothing like Elvis, nothing at all.” [4]

Still, despite their drive for individuality, Graceland keeps calling the Presley heirs back to celebrate their family legacy and make new memories. Lisa Marie says, “Being here means everything to me. I have a really strong sense of home here. The babies love it, my husband and my older children love it. I feel rooted when I’m here.” [2]

It’s the “How well do you know Elvis?” Contest!

Answer these 5 questions correctly and you could win a GRAND prize.

1. Elvis was not the only child born to Gladys Presley, true or false?

2. What is the call number of the first radio station to play Elvis’ first single?

3. Colonel Tom Sanders was Elvis’ exclusive manager, true or false?

4. Where did Graceland get its name?

5. The 1992 postage stamp design that Elvis fans rejected featured what U.S. state?

[All answers at Elvis.com/Timeline]

Contest winner to be chosen by random drawing by August 10. Enter contest here.

Pssst…GRAND wants to know

Tell us in 25 words or less what kind of GRANDfather you think Elvis would have been. [Please give your opinion here.] 

Going to Graceland?

Throughout 2012, Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis will be commemorating the 35th anniversary year with special events and three new exhibits exploring various sides of The King: “Elvis on Tour,” “Elvis…Through His Daughter’s Eyes” and “Icon: The Influence of Elvis Presley.” Graceland is open year-round with various tour options [see Elvis.com/Graceland].

Sources of quotations:

[1] ABC News Good Morning America, Feb. 1, 2012

[2] Elvis.com, recorded on XM/Sirius Radio live from Graceland, Feb. 1, 2012

[3] Oprah Winfrey Show, 2007

[4] The Telegraph [UK], 2009

Mary Ann Cooper is a celebrity journalist and author of Grandeur: The Personal Reflections of Famous Grandparents.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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