Elvis' Relationship With Lisa Marie Presley Explained

Elvis Presley was one of the most instantly recognizable people of the 20th century, who revolutionized rock music and spawned generations of imitators in his wake. Known as "The King of Rock 'n' Roll," or simply "The King," he was and remains an icon. However, Elvis also had a private life, which revolved around family at his Graceland ranch in Memphis, Tennessee.

In 1967, Elvis married Priscilla Wagner, the step-daughter of a U.S. Air Force officer to whom he was first introduced while stationed in Germany on military service. Priscilla was just 14 years old at the time of their meeting, though the marriage only occurred eight years later after a long courtship. In 1968, Priscilla gave birth to the couple's only child, a daughter named Lisa Marie. For a while, it seemed as though the King was set to have a settled home life that was strikingly at odds with his rockstar lifestyle to that point. However, it wasn't to last, with the couple separating while Lisa Marie was still a child. She also faced tragedy in her childhood when Elvis died tragically, leaving her to be raised by Priscilla. But in her later years, Lisa Marie claimed she had fond memories of her father and being raised by the music legend. Here's the story of their relationship.

The birth of Lisa Marie Presley

Lisa Marie Presley was born on February 1, 1968, at Baptist Memorial Hospital a short drive away from Graceland. Her mother Priscilla Presley gives an account of the birth in her bestselling memoir, "Elvis and Me," in which she states that Elvis was over the moon with the baby's arrival and that he loved his daughter from first sight. "I can't believe I made part of this beautiful child," he reportedly said as he held her for the first time. "She's perfect ... even the color of her hair is right."

However, Presley hadn't exactly been an angel during Priscilla's pregnancy. As she recalls in her memoir, in the run-up to Lisa Marie's birth the King had grown close to Nancy Sinatra, whom he starred with in the 1968 movie "Speedway." Though the pair maintained their relationship was nothing more than flirtatious, Priscilla heard rumors that they were having an affair, which hurt her at a vulnerable time. She was also hurt by Elvis' suggestion that the two have a trial separation, which was perhaps a reflection of his nervousness at the prospect of how becoming a full-blown family man might affect his career, though the two stayed together throughout the pregnancy.

Elvis and Priscilla's divorce

Elvis Presley remained a doting father in the months that followed, according to Priscilla Presley's "Elvis and Me." However, once work started up again the King became distant from his wife, who did the vast majority of the childcare while pursuing her new-found interest in dance. 

After a period of productive recording that saw Elvis return to the charts and the level of critical acclaim that had eluded him since the 1950s, he took on a major residency in Las Vegas, away from his wife and child who stayed, apart from the occasional visit, in Graceland. Between residencies, Elvis reportedly struggled to settle back into family life after the adulation he was receiving, and after he went on tour he saw less and less of Priscilla and Lisa Marie. By 1973, Elvis and Priscilla were preparing to divorce. "Our principal concern was Lisa," Priscilla writes. Following the divorce, Priscilla moved out of Graceland, and though they had continued to grow apart in the months before the divorce was finalized, the legal process was reportedly amicable, with the two agreeing to share custody of their only daughter.

Being raised by a legend

As Priscilla writes in "Elvis and Me," she and her ex-husband made a great effort to put a brave face on the separation in front of Lisa Marie, and through displays of affection and being sure not to argue, they attempted to portray to the child that everything was normal between her parents. Lisa Marie would regularly visit her father in Graceland and Los Angeles, where her mother also lived after the divorce, but according to Priscilla, Elvis' party lifestyle meant that he was ill-equipped for responsible solo parenting. Priscilla claims that at one point she received a call from an assistant who admitted that Lisa Marie was not in bed even at 1 a.m. and that she refused to be bathed. The incident gives the impression that he spoiled her and let her have free rein wherever she was visiting him at the time. "To hell with values," Elvis reportedly joked in a conversation with his ex-wife.

Lisa Marie elaborated further in a YouTube video: "There was no schedule, there was no time at Graceland, no rules," she said, "... It was quite the lively home." Elvis was also the only person who could get her to take a bath, "I wouldn't argue with him, ever," she said.

However, Lisa Marie has loving memories of her father's unusual parently style. "He'd always wake me up to sing in the middle of the night, get on the table and sing," she said in 2009, according to ABC News. "I remember him as my dad, but he was a very exciting dad." 

The death of Elvis Presley

Lisa Marie Presley was just 9 years old when her father's shocking death was announced to the world on August 16, 1977. According to Radar Online Lisa Marie recalled that she had been concerned as a child about her father's obvious ill-health in his final years, and wrote poems and diary entries about it in which she hoped he wouldn't die. In a horrifying turn of events, Lisa Marie was visiting Elvis when he died. He kissed her goodnight just hours before he had a heart attack. The next time she saw him he was lying dead in the bathroom. 

The cause of death was listed as hypertensive heart disease, though Elvis Presley's drug use in later life has since emerged as a commonly known factor. Though Elvis had once been one of the wealthiest musicians on the planet, as his career faltered and he descended into poor health and addiction his fortune dwindled. By the time of his death, he reportedly had just $5 million in a trust fund set aside for Lisa Marie, according to People. However, in the decades that followed, his estate was managed by his ex-wife Priscilla in such a way that its value grew dramatically. In 1993, Lisa Marie finally inherited her father's fortune, which was reported to be in the region of $100 million, at the age of just 25.

Lisa Marie's memories of her father

Sadly, Lisa Marie Presley was also to have a tragic end, as she died from complications of small bowel obstruction on January 12, 2023, at the age of just 54. That issue stemmed from a bariatric surgery she'd had years prior and is a known risk factor. During her lifetime, Lisa Marie remained devoted to her father's memory and was adamant that the relationship between them was a loving and appreciative one. "He was very protective, very adoring, and very watchful," she once said. "I knew that I was loved there was no question about that" (via YouTube). 

It emerged in 2023 that before her death, Lisa Marie had taken exception to the depiction of her father in the upcoming biopic "Priscilla." "My father only comes across as a predator and manipulative. As his daughter, I don't read this and see any of my father in this character," she wrote, according to Variety. In a 2018 interview with Lorraine (via YouTube), Lisa Marie describes the warmth she felt having recently encountered a quote from Elvis in which he claimed that becoming a father was the best thing that had ever happened to him. She said, "I knew there was a great love there. I knew that there was a really strong connection, since the minute I can remember ... I felt like I was the most important thing to him."