On 1/14/2023, two days after Lisa Marie Presley died, a WSJ columnist, Bob Greene, wrote a short piece in memoriam.
Lisa Marie was 9 years old when Elvis Presley died at his home – Graceland – in Memphis in 1977 at the age of 42.
Elvis was already divorced from Priscilla but that day, Lisa Marie was staying with him.
The cause of death was reported to be cardiac arrest secondary to his addiction to prescription barbiturates and its side effects.
Mr Greene’s piece was very touching and captured the sadness in Lisa Marie. He had written about Elvis already and wrote some more after his death. Once, when he went to Las Vegas as part of his writing, Mr Greene had been allowed to stay at the suite atop the Las Vegas Hilton, a suite built for Elvis since the hotel was his preferred venue for his performances in Las Vegas.
In his piece, Mr Greene wrote that Elvis had chosen ‘a life of fanfare and notoriety’.
That statement caught my eye.
Do we really choose our lives or do our talents choose them for us?
It’s hard to imagine a man like Elvis, with such oversize talent, to hear music and not jump with it, saying, ‘no, I’m not going to do that. It’s too much. It might take me places too elevated.’
It’s hard to imagine Elvis looking at a guitar and saying, ‘no, I’m not going to tinker with you because who knows what kinds of sounds I’ll make and I will be late for trade school where I’ll get to learn how to make a living.’
Hard to imagine Elvis walking away from the guitar he saw displayed at the pawn shop and not look back because the damn thing kept calling to him and screaming, ‘Damnit, you fool, this is it, don’t you hear it?’
No. Elvis knew, in his bones, that music had a hold on him and he’d better embrace it or it would be the end of him. It would have been the end of him, even if he had gone on living into his 80s or 90s, having settled down to a peaceful existence as a tradesman or some other occupation in Memphis, Tennessee.
To have walked away from the guitar, to have numbed himself to the magic of music, would’ve deprived him and all of us of very special moments.
That he died in the prime of his life is due to other reasons.
Indulging our talents, working on them, perfecting them, is not all protective, though it takes us a long way in that direction.
For all his gifts, Elvis, whose music has touched us deeply, could not fend off the demons that assailed him.
I once saw a sign hanging from a psychiatrist’s door. It read, ‘If you need help, you’re a human being. If you don’t, you’re a god.’
The doc had a point.
Elvis needed help but instead turned to opiates. No one around said to him, ‘that’s not it, man, I don’t care how much of a giant in music you are. You still need that connection with a person who hears you, listens to your pain and embraces you. The beauty of the music you have created does wonderful things, inspire, soothe, even enlighten, but the pain you’re having needs the touch of a person who sees you just as a man, a fellow human being asking to be accepted as you are, with all your flaws.’
Even if a person is born with various talents, it is the greatest of them, if you allow yourself to feel them, which will tell you which way to go. It is the greatest of our talents, that will rock you and us.
We just have to listen.
To the King of Rock, my posthumous thanks. I admit I don’t listen to you often enough, but when I hear passages of your music and the uniqueness of your voice, you always bring a smile to my face.
To Lisa Marie, thank you, too. I never met you or saw you perform but know that something in you sought to extend to us part of the magic into which you were born.
Lisa Marie died at age 54 in Los Angeles. The immediate cause was reported as cardiac arrest.