Friends Jeanene Erdahl and Lisa Larson drove all night from Minnesota to Graceland, arriving in Memphis at 4:30 a.m. to queue for a memorial to honor the life of Lisa Marie Presleywho died last week at 54. Later today, they’ll turn around and do it again.
Erdahl and Larson, who became fast friends seven years ago after bonding over their mutual love of Elvis, watched the memorial service just a few steps from where the mourners like Axl Rose Y Alanis Morisette they were paying musical tribute to the only child of Elvis and Priscilla Presley.
“She was part of our generation, and [we] I saw her go through difficulties in her life and overcome them,” says Erdahl. Rolling Stone. “She had strength and character and dynamism, and she just seemed so fun.”
Mourners traveled from around the world to pay their respects to Lisa Marie, a talented musician as well as the caretaker of her father’s legacy for most of her life. Debbie Ramage of Courtenay, British Columbia, was planning to finally visit Graceland next year on her 60th birthday, but she decided to come now to pay her respects to her family. “I think she was brilliant,” Ramage says of Lisa Marie. She “she was very similar to her father. She has that beautiful spirit as her father, and she was a beautiful singer.”
Under a cold, gray Memphis winter sky, family, friends and a crowd of mourners estimated to number in the thousands gathered in front of a stage set up just outside the gates of Graceland: the mansion Elvis bought in 1957 and the house where Lisa Marie spent her first four years. Attendees lined the circular driveway and stretched toward the stone wall that runs along the north side of the property as a succession of guests, from Priscilla Presley to Memphis Mafia alumnus Jerry Schilling, took to the dais. As each guest left the tent, the crowd, without warning, held up photos of Lisa Marie and waved them in tribute.
Like the general mood, the musical performances were mostly somber, with billy corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins (whose friendship with Lisa Marie dates back to their 2003 collaboration “Savior”) performing the To adore cut “To Sheila” on an acoustic guitar. Alanis Morissette took the stage with a pianist to sing “Rest,” which she wrote after Chester Bennington’s suicide in 2017 and released for the Mental Health Day of Action in 2021.
Then, in a surprise appearance that could only be upstaged by a cameo from Elvis himself, Axl Rose arose. Dressed in a long dark coat and scarf, the vulnerable and emotional Guns N’ Roses frontman stood behind the podium at Graceland and admitted that he was speechless and nervous about being asked to speak at the memorial. “I’m still in shock as I feel like I will be for quite some time,” Rose, a longtime friend of Lisa Marie’s, said. “I feel like I’m supposed to be texting him right now.” He followed his comments, read from his phone, taking a seat at the grand piano and playing a swift-fingered rendition of GNR’s signature ballad, “November Rain.”
After the service of just over an hour, the mourners, who were asked not to photograph family members and guests out of respect for Lisa Marie, walked quietly up Graceland’s driveway to their final resting place. of Lisa Marie in the Meditation Garden, the same route that thousands of Presley worshipers take each August 15 as part of the candlelight vigil to mark the anniversary of Elvis’s death.
Wreaths sent from Elvis fan clubs in Italy, Japan, Sweden and Germany lined the walkway leading to the garden. A bouquet of red and white roses was placed nearby, with a card reading “In loving memory, of Axl Rose.” Mourners filed slowly, first past the graves of Elvis and his parents, Gladys and Vernon, and then turning to pay their respects at the grave of Lisa Marie alongside her son, Benjamin Keough, whose 2020 suicide devastated Lisa Marie. Flowers, stuffed animals and other memorabilia surrounded their mausoleums, with another bouquet of white roses, this one sent by Oprah Winfrey, bringing them together.
After paying her respects, Katrina McElyea of Memphis, whose mother was a nurse for Elvis’s controversial doctor, Dr. George Nichopoulos, and who occasionally plays Elvis’s mother in reenactments of her life, reflected on the memory of Lisa Marie and what it meant to the worldwide Elvis community.
“She was someone who cared not only for her family and her father’s legacy; she cared about the fans, she cared about the tribute artists,” says McElyea. “She really loved each one of us, and to be here and give back even a fraction of that love is really special to me.”
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