Friends Jeanene Erdahl and Lisa Larson drove all night from Minnesota to Graceland, arriving in Memphis at 4:30 a.m. to line up for a memorial honoring the life of Lisa Marie Presley, who died last week at 54- age died. Later today they will reverse and do it again.
Erdahl and Larson, who became fast friends seven years ago after bonding over their mutual love for Elvis, watched the memorial service just steps away from where mourners like Axl Rose and Alanis Morissette paid a musical tribute to the only child of Elvis and Priscilla Presley.
“She was part of our generation, and [we] saw her go through struggles in her life and overcome them,” Erdahl shares Rolling stone. “She had strength and character and spunk, and she just seemed so much fun.”
Mourners traveled from all over the world to pay their respects to Lisa Marie, a talented musician herself, and the caretaker of her father’s estate for most of her life. Debbie Ramage of Courtenay, British Columbia, was planning to finally visit Graceland next year on her 60th birthday, but decided to come now to pay her respects to the family. “I think she was brilliant,” Ramage says of Lisa Marie. “She was very similar to her father. She has that beautiful spirit like her father, and she was a beautiful singer.
Under a cold, gray Memphis winter sky, family, friends and a crowd of mourners estimated in the thousands gathered in front of a stage set up just behind the gates of Graceland – the mansion Elvis bought in 1957 and the home where Lisa Marie spent her first four year round. Attendees lined the circular driveway and stretched out toward the stone wall that ran along the north side of the property as a succession of guests, from Priscilla Presley to Memphis Mafia alum Jerry Schilling, took the stage. As each guest exited the tent, the crowd—uninvited—raised and waved photos of Lisa Marie in tribute.
Like the overall mood, the musical performances were mostly somber, with Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan (whose friendship with Lisa Marie dates back to their 2003 collaboration “Savior”) leading the Love 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 Mental Health Action Day in 2021.
Then Axl Rose appeared in a surprise appearance that could only be overshadowed by a cameo from Elvis himself. Dressed in a long, dark coat and scarf, the Guns N’ Roses frontman, vulnerable and emotional, stood backstage at Graceland and admitted he was tongue-tied and nervous about being asked to speak at the commemoration. “I’m still in shock, and I feel like I will be for quite some time,” said Rose, a longtime friend of Lisa Marie. “I feel like I should be texting her right now.” He followed his remarks, read from his phone, by taking a seat at the grand piano and playing a dexterous rendition of GNR’s signature ballad, “November Rain.”
After the service, which lasted just over an hour, the mourners – who were asked not to take pictures of family members and guests out of respect for Lisa Marie – quietly walked Graceland’s driveway to Lisa Marie’s final resting place in the Meditation Garden, the same route thousands of Presley faithful took. participate in the candlelight vigil every August 15 to mark the anniversary of Elvis’ death.
Wreaths sent by Elvis fan clubs in Italy, Japan, Sweden and Germany lined the walkway leading to the garden. A bouquet of white and red roses was placed nearby, with a card reading, “In Loving Memory, From Axl Rose.” Mourners walked slowly through, first passing the graves of Elvis and his parents, Gladys and Vernon, then bowing to pay respects at Lisa Marie’s grave next to her son, Benjamin Keough, whose 2020 suicide shattered Lisa Marie. Flowers, stuffed animals, and other mementos surrounded their mausoleums, with another bouquet of white roses—this one sent by Oprah Winfrey—to bridge them.
After paying her respects, Katrina McElyea of Memphis – whose mother was a nurse for Elvis’ controversial doctor, Dr. global Elvis community.
“She was someone who cared not only about her family and her father’s legacy; she cared about the fans, she cared about the tribute artists,” says McElyea. “She really loved all of us, and to be here and return even a fraction of that love is very special to me.”