SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA. I don’t know what to think about Lisa Marie Presley. She is loved. She is hated. She is as misunderstood by people as much as her father was misunderstood when he was alive. I read her candid 2003 interview with Rolling Stone and I still don’t understand her any better than before reading the interview.
The unfolding story of Lisa Marie Presley’s life has been told — albeit in what its subject would regard as a contorted, distant, sensationalized, trivialized and often fictional way — in America’s tabloids since before she could read. ‘I’m a tabloid queen. . . princess . . . whatever you want to call me’, she says…’Unfortunately. Because I want to know what people are thinking when they see me’. Taking the few facts they know and others they imagine to be true, the tabloids picture her life as following the narrative they expect for, and impose upon, those they consider the aimless children of the famous: rampant drug addiction, weird religious faith, ludicrous eccentricity and catastrophic relationships. (04/20/2003. Rolling Stone: Lisa Marie Presley Interview.)
Lisa Marie Presley made her one and only appearance in California this year at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. I was there to see Lisa Marie without the Presley. To see her as not the daughter of Elvis Presley, but as a unique singer, songwriter, artist, and entertainer. It is her music she allows us to have a peek into her heart and mind, but still, the songs revealed very little. We’ll come back to the uniqueness of Lisa Marie, but first a little bit about the experience.
My wife and I met up with our friends, Joe and Gina Bullock, for the VIP meet and greet. Things ran a little late for the band who we could hear rehearsing as we stood in line outside. Lisa Marie showed us her gratitude for our patience by performing two songs for us. We were ushered out back for a regimented meet and greet. One picture for each person and no additional autographs, but we were all given a swag bag with an autographed picture, souvenir poster, bottle-opener key chain, and five collector guitar picks. Some very nice souvenirs.
Meeting Lisa Marie was an unexpected surreal moment for all of us. I wasn’t really expecting to feel anything since famous folks are just people who are blessed with the talent to be idolized by millions. The purpose of going to see Lisa Marie was to see her apart from her dad, but it is inescapable once you’ve come face to face with her and realize she is the flesh and blood of Elvis Presley. There is a moment of revelation when you know this is the closest you’ll ever get to Elvis in person, but it ends there.
Lisa Marie Presley is her own person. Take away her surname and she is just another artist pursuing her craft. She has her own story, her own life, her own interpretation of the world around her translated in rhyme and song. It’s unfair to compare Lisa Marie to her dad because there is no comparison. She shares his name and is a part of his legacy, but the two are as different musically as night is to day.
Much of the music coming from her soul can be dark, boding with violence, not physical, but with emotional violence. The songs depict images of hope, frustration from betrayal by friends, lovers and the media, and desire to change. Change to be better, or change to be unnique, or to reveal as much of her real self as possible without concern for how others perceive her. The lyrics could be interpreted that Lisa Marie is fighting against herself and the world with a fierce determination to formulate her own legacy. Every song seems to be an internalized storm raging inside her, but very little grace is present, in fact, it seems to be absent or left to Lisa Marie’s own understanding of grace. A grace which means she can look back and say I made it out alive, better, and stronger. Maybe that is how she sees grace: survival.
Lisa Marie is a talented singer/songwriter with a hugely successful, critically acclaimed Storm & Grace album and tour. Reading through some of the reviews and overhearing conversations at the Coach House many people, that is Elvis fans, want her to incorporate Elvis into her concerts, or at least acknowledge him. I don’t think she should ever incorporate her dad into her concerts or acknowledge him. If you go to her concert expecting to see Elvis, or have her acknowledge her dad, you’ll be very disappointed. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t realize the contribution he has made to her music or shows disrespect towards him, or diminishes the love she has for her dad, but Elvis already had his time with us. He shared the beauty of his voice with us, gave us his best, and his legacy stands today as a testament to his impact on millions.
Moreover, if you watch her closely you see Elvis is a part of her. It’s obvious in her facial features, The lip tends to curl, the microphone is wired instead of being wireless, and her left hand sometimes motions like her dad’s did. He is there on stage with her, embodied in her, and I think she knows it. Perhaps, it’s her homage to Elvis fans, perhaps it’s all subconscious or simply part of her DNA. We’ll never know, and frankly, it’s none of our business.
We can all make our perceived opinions about what Lisa Marie should do with Elvis during her concerts, but it doesn’t matter. Besides, she tours as Lisa Marie Presley instead of Lisa Marie, keeping his name close to her as she continues to make her own music for her fans—not Elvis fans. That may be the subtle acknowledgment to her legendary dad. It’s good enough for me.
It’s Lisa Marie’s time now.
I ask her how she will judge whether her record has been a success. ‘At this point’, she says, ‘it’s OK with me whatever happens with it. I don’t give a flying crap about hits. I mean, I do, of course, but as long as people know it’s for real, it’s not BS, it’s me, my spirit, my heart, my head. You bare your ass for everybody and go, ‘What do you think?’ It’s scary, but it’s me’. (04/20/2003. Rolling Stone: Lisa Marie Presley interview referring to her To Whom it May Concern album release.)
I think I understand Lisa Marie a little better through her Storm & Grace album and through the concert. I’ve written a couple of things about her and I what I think she feels; however, I really don’t know her, obviously. I can conclude that Lisa Marie seems to be doing just fine on the surface riding the storms of her life the best she knows how to do.