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Presley, Lisa Marie

Lisa Marie Presley

Singer, songwriter

For much of her life, Lisa Marie Presley lived in the glare of a media spotlight directed at other people. Her father, Elvis Presley, perhaps the most popular musician of the modern era, died when she was nine, of heart failure associated with prescription drug use. Three times she was married to and divorced from entertainment industry figures; the most famous of those, vocalist Michael Jackson, was one of the few singers who rivaled her father's celebrity. The odds against Lisa Marie Presley's emergence as an independent artist with her own voice were high, yet she beat those odds with her 2003 debut album To Whom It May Concern, and its 2005 follow-up, Now What.

Lisa Marie Presley was the apple of Elvis Presley's eye. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, on February 1, 1968, she had the run of Graceland, her father's baroque Memphis estate. Elvis and Lisa's mother, Priscilla Presley, separated when Lisa Marie was four, but she continued to see both parents, splitting her time between Memphis and Los Angeles, where her mother lived. The young girl had a top-notch education in Los Angeles, attending a French school, Le Lycée Français, the Westlake School for Girls, and the Westside Apple School. The last of these was affiliated with Scientology, a contemporary religious sect that Priscilla Presley had joined.

Presley abused drugs as a high school student, and dropped out of school when she was a junior. For a while she seemed to be headed down a self-destructive path, but Scientology helped her turn her life around. The group's Celebrity Center rehab living facility housed her after her lifestyle reached a crisis point, and it was there that she met rock musician Danny Keough. The two were married in 1988 and had two children, Danielle and Benjamin. Divorced in 1994, they remained close friends. Keough, in fact, played bass on Now What. "I knew at the age that I had the kids with him that Danny was someone I could be connected with for the rest of my life," Presley later told People.

During her marriage to Keough, Presley began writing songs, something her father had rarely done. She was understandably unsure of how to avoid comparisons with Elvis Presley, especially since, even with her rather gothic look, she resembled him strongly. So she kept her creative activities mostly secret, and any thoughts she might have had of emerging into a musical career were submerged by the avalanche of publicity that followed her marriage to Michael Jackson in the Dominican Republic on May 26, 1994.

Many observers speculated at the time that it was a marriage of convenience, because it followed closely on the first of the accusations of child sexual abuse that later bedeviled Jackson and resulted in criminal proceedings against him in 2004 and 2005. Presley, however, stated several times that she was in love with Jackson and played the role of pursuer during their courtship. "I was really in this lioness thing with him," she said in a Rolling Stone interview quoted in People. "I wanted to protect him." Presley took the name Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson but remained in her home in the exclusive Hidden Hills suburb of Los Angeles instead of moving in with Jackson at his Neverland ranch.

Just over 18 months later, in January of 1996, Presley filed for divorce, asking the Los Angeles Superior Court only to order that her maiden name be restored and that Jackson cover the legal costs of the divorce. People reported that the couple had argued over the lavish gifts Jackson gave Presley's children, and a Presley associate told the magazine that "There are a lot of shady characters around Michael who were up-setting to Lisa. She felt that in their minds she was part of a machinery to re-create his image."

After that setback, Presley got more serious about her music. Her first appearance as a performer came in a new video for the Elvis Presley song "Don't Cry Daddy" that marked the 20th anniversary of Elvis's death; her voice was digitally added to Elvis's original recording. The video's producer, David Foster, encouraged Presley, and introduced her to Alanis Morissette producer Glen Ballard. She soon signed a contract with the Capitol label in 1998 and began work on the album that was to become To Whom It May Concern. The album's creation turned out to be a very slow process, interrupted by new upheavals in Presley's personal life. She became engaged to singer-songwriter John Oszajca, but broke off that relationship after she met actor Nicolas Cage at a birthday party for punk rocker Johnny Ramone.

Cage and Presley were married in Hawaii on August 10, 2002, but the marriage lasted only 108 days. "I'm sad about this, but we shouldn't have been married in the first place," Presley said in a statement quoted by People. "It was a big mistake." Presley threw herself back into her music, and To Whom It May Concern was released in the spring of 2003. With production work from David Rosse, the album featured a dark sound that completely avoided any musical connection with that of Elvis Presley, even though many of Lisa Marie's intense, cathartic lyrics drew on her own unusual life. The single "Lights Out" received strong radio airplay, "thanks to smoky vocals that sound more like Cher than Dad," noted People. To Whom It May Concern made its debut at number 5 on Billboard magazine's album sales chart.

Presley's first tour, opening for rocker Chris Isaak, was less well received than her album had been; unlike most performers who come to stardom with a lifetime of experience with live audiences under their belts, Presley was making live appearances for the first time. The title of Presley's sophomore release, Now What, seemed to acknowledge the doubts of those who wondered whether she could duplicate the success of her first album, which had been fueled partly by sheer curiosity.

Now What, released on April 7, 2005, featured musical contributions by former 4 Non Blondes member Linda Perry, set to Presley's own lyrics. The album's leadoff single, however, was a remake of the 1983 Don Henley hit "Dirty Laundry," a song aimed at the media's invasive preoccupation with tragedy and unhappiness. Now What confounded the doubters once again by rising into Billboard's top ten. Reviews were mixed, but no one could claim that Presley was trading on her father's name or music; her gritty style was distinctively her own.

As president of Elvis Presley Enterprises, the business entity that supervises Elvis Presley's vast commercial legacy, Lisa Marie Presley's estate has been estimated to be worth around $150 million. She has donated some of her wealth to charitable enterprises, including the transitional housing facility Presley Place, LEAP (Literacy Education and Ability Program), and the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights, a group striving to combat the common practice of prescribing psychoactive drugs to children. Her next move in the music business as of 2005 was still unclear, but she seemed to have compelling stories to tell through her music.

For the Record …

Born on February 1, 1968, in Nashville, TN; daughter of Elvis (a singer) and Priscilla Presley; married Danny Keough (a musician), 1998 (divorced, 1994); married Michael Jackson (a singer), 1994 (divorced, 1996); married Nicolas Cage (an actor), 2002 (divorced, 2002); children: (with Keough) Danielle and Benjamin. Education: Attended Le Lycée Français, the Westlake School for Girls, and the Westside Apple School, Los Angeles.

Signed to Capitol label, 1998; released To Whom It May Concern, 2003; released Now What, 2005.

Addresses: AgentWilliam Morris Agency, One William Morris Place, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Website—Lisa Marie Presley Official Website: http://www.lisapresley.com.

Selected discography

To Whom It May Concern, Capitol, 2003.

Now What, Capitol, 2005.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, April 23, 2005, p. 31.

Entertainment Weekly, June 1, 2001, p. 94.

Newsweek, April 7, 2003, p. 60.

People, February 5, 1996, p. 53; February 21, 2000, p. 68; December 9, 2002, p. 72; May 5, 2003, p. 81; May 12, 2003, p. 142; April 11, 2005, p. 47; April 18, 2005, p. 28.

Online

"Lisa Marie Presley," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (May 24, 2005).

"Lisa Marie Presley faces the music," CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com (April 11, 2005).

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