Lisa Marie Presley Remembered In Public Memorial Service At Graceland

A fitting farewell for Memphis royalty.

Lisa Marie Presley Gravesite

Jason Kempin / Staff/Getty Images

Family, friends, and fans gathered together on the front lawn of Graceland to honor  the life of Lisa Marie Presley on Sunday morning, while upwards of 75 thousand people streamed it live from around the world. The weather was cold, gray, and dreary but the service began with a soul stirring performance of “Amazing Grace” by Jason Clark and the Tennessee Mass Choir. Then, Elvis Presley Enterprises’ managing partner Joel Weinshanker, made some opening remarks and he told the crowd that Lisa Marie’s wish was, “don’t make it sad.”

What followed was a service that was a true celebration of Lisa Marie’s full 54 years of life. The lineup was a perfect mix of representation from her life in California and her roots in Memphis, and of course there was music. 

After an invocation by Pastor Dwayne Hunt, former Memphis mayor, A.C. Wharton gave a beautiful tribute. He spoke of how Lisa Marie was born in 1968, a difficult year for the city of Memphis. During those dark times, “A star was shining right here in Graceland with the birth of this precious angel.” He continued, “I can’t speak for Hollywood, can’t speak for New York, or any other city where Lisa Marie lived, but I can tell you that Lisa Marie was this city’s precious joy every day of her life.” He spoke of how Elvis was born in Tupelo, and Priscilla also moved to Memphis but, “Lisa Marie was all Memphis. She belonged to us and we belonged to her… As her soul takes flight, her spirit will live in the city that loved her tenderly and loved her sweetly and loved her truly.”

Most native Memphians would agree with this sentiment. While she moved away from the Bluff City when she was a child, her roots remained firmly planted there. The only child of Elvis and Priscilla frequently returned home for charitable functions, special events, and often for special anniversaries of the King’s, including just days before her death when she was at Graceland for what would have been Elvis’ 88th birthday. It is a fitting choice that this city and this family home will be her final resting place alongside her son Benjamin who died in 2020 and near her father, grandparents, great uncle, and great grandmother. 

Following the tribute from Wharton, several of Lisa Marie’s famous friends paid tribute. Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, Alanis Morissette, and Axl Rose all gave moving musical performances to honor their friend. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York told the crowd of mourners that she and Lisa Marie referred to one another as “Sissy.” She evoked the words of her late mother in law, Queen Elizabeth, as she said “nothing can be said to take away the anguish of these moments because grief is the price we pay for love.”

Billy Corgan

Jason Kempin / Staff/Getty

Alanis Morissette

Jason Kempin / Staff/Getty Images

Sarah Ferguson Duchess of York

Jason Kempin / Staff/Getty

Axl Rose

Jason Kempin / Staff/Getty Images

Next, one of Elvis’ lifelong friends, Jerry Schilling, spoke to the mourners, holding his own tears as he spoke fondly about “me and a girl called Memphis,” sharing that he always called Lisa Marie “Memphis” because “she had that attitude.” He spoke of how he spent Christmas and New Year’s with the Presley family in 1967 and Elvis convinced him to stay because Priscilla was due any moment with their child. Schilling recalled how when Lisa Marie was born, she was the first baby he ever held. “And that was the beginning of my journey with Memphis,” he told the crowd. As a young adult of 18 or 19, Lisa Marie came to Schilling to ask for a job and he hired her as his assistant. He performed her wedding, her daughter Riley’s wedding to Ben, and joked that the kids called him Rev J. But Lisa Marie always used his full name in a specific cadence when she addressed him. It was Schilling who escorted Lisa Marie on the red carpet at the Golden Globes just days before her death. He spoke of that moment too. 

“Afterwards, last thing she said to me ‘Jerry Schilling, I love you.’ As I was in the hospital with Elvis when she was born, I was with Priscilla when she left us, Memphis, I will always love you.”

Priscilla Presley

Jason Kempin / Staff/Getty Images

A visibly shaken Priscilla briefly took the stage next, saying that all of their hearts were broken as she then read a message from her granddaughter. Next, Ben Smith-Petersen, husband of Lisa Marie’s daughter Riley Keough, read a message on his wife’s behalf. Her message in part said "I hope I can love my daughter the way you loved me, the way you loved my brother and my sisters. Thank you for giving me strength, my heart, my empathy, my courage, my sense of humor, my manners, my temper, my wildness, my tenacity. I'm a product of your heart, my sisters are a product of your heart, my brother is a product of your heart."

Pastor Dwayne Hunt returned with another prayer and then the legendary gospel group, The Blackwood Brothers Quartet took the stage. The group performed “How Great Thou Art,” and “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.” Then, Billy Blackwood shared a personal story about how on the day that Lisa Marie was born, he recalls his father getting a call from Elvis to come to the house. He went along with his father and he recounted how Elvis introduced his father to Lisa Marie and then, cradling the newborn in his arms, he said “Lisa Marie, this is Mr. Blackwood, one of my heroes.” He then shared that the quartet had answered Elvis’ request to sing at his mother Gladys’ funeral, then his father sang at Elvis’ funeral. Through tears, Blackwood then said it was a full circle moment and an honor to be asked to sing for Lisa Marie today. “Elvis would often have psalms in his concerts and he wouldn’t sing, he would ask his audience to listen and a holy hush would fill the auditorium and we would hope the same holy hush would fill us all today. May this song be the ushering in of God’s presence in your lives,” Blackwood said. 

Weinshanker returned to conclude with a promise. He spoke of Lisa Marie’s lifelong mission to preserve the Presley legacy. “She was and always will be her father’s protector and we will continue to be hers.” Jason Clark and Tennessee Mass Choir returned to stage to end the service in a powerful rendition of Revelation 19:1. You can watch the service in its entirety below:

Following the service, the family and friends were escorted to the Meditation Garden to pay their respects to Lisa Marie and then the fans who had also gathered for the public memorial were allowed to proceed past the grave site. You can watch the service in it’s entirety 

For those who would like to honor Lisa Marie’s memory, the family is asking for donations to be made to the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation.

Fans at Lisa Marie's grave

Jason Kempin / Staff/Getty Images

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Presley family at this difficult time. 

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles