It’s hard to follow in the footsteps of a music king, and Lisa Marie Presley did everything her own way.
The singer-songwriter, who died on Thursday at age 54 after being rushed to the hospital for a possible cardiac arrest, is recognized by many as daughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, but to fans who supported her music career in the early ’00s and beyond, she was always a rockstar.
With a posthumous collab with her late father shared in 1997, a debut of her own released in 2003, and two more albums released in the decade to follow, Presley built up a steady catalog of music over the years. To celebrate her musical legacy, PEOPLE is looking back at her decision to launch a career as a singer and songwriter, and the music she’s now left behind.
“This is me. This record is me,” Presley said in 2003 before the release of her debut LP To Whom It May Concern. “Every song is me. You’re going to see who I really am and not what the tabloids say or whatever anyone has to say about me.”
While Presley’s musical beginnings can easily be traced back to her early years in Graceland and lessons learned from the King of Rock n’ Roll himself, that familial relationship also introduced her to a few other notable names in music.
Growing up, one of Presley’s earliest favorite albums was The Sweet Inspiration by The Sweet Inspirations — a girl group featuring Cissy Houston that used to tour with her father. “They were like The Supremes then but they weren’t as high profile,” she told PopEntertainment.com in 2005. “I think they were underrated because my father snagged them at some point. Soulful music always impacted me. Gospel music. I just loved their voices and I loved that song. I think I had a little 45 and I played that all the time.”
Following her father’s 1977 death, Presley recalled her first rock show being Queen at The Forum, in either 1978 or 1979. At the time, she brought her father’s scarf for vocalist Freddie Mercury. “I loved it. I loved the theatrics. I loved Freddie,” she said. “I thought Queen were awesome. I’m a big fan of theatrics.”
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic Lisa Marie Presley
She also explained to the outlet that Pink Floyd‘s music had a tremendous impact on her early life with The Wall being a classic that she often returned to. “I like honest, dark music that’s saying something,” Presley said. “That’s your job as a writer. Music is some sort of communication. I think that’s the only kind of music that had a real impact on me. That’s the music I respond to and that’s the music that I write. The only subject that I was good at in school was writing. I used to be a serious writer growing up. I wrote poems, short stories. That’s when I’d be the happiest, when I could write. That was obvious at a young age. “
But for her own career, things began moving forward in 1997 when Presley released what appears to be her first recording — a posthumous duet with her father, covering his song “Don’t Cry Daddy” as she sang along with his vocals. The song was shared as part of the 20th anniversary of Elvis’ death, and just five years later, Lisa Marie began to pursue a solo career.
Of her decision to begin releasing solo music, starting with 2003’s To Whom It May Concern, Presley told PopEntertainment.com that a goal of hers was to “try to get my own fans and hopefully allow my music to affect others like it’s done for me in my life.”
“I’m carrying the torch but it’s in my own way,” she said. “It’s like what I said in my liner notes to my parents. We’ve all pioneered different roads. He had a huge road in the 1950s it was very conservative and he shook everything up. That was a cross to bear and pissed a lot of people off and made a lot of people happy all at the same time. And my mom has her own thing where she was a very young girl and was presented an opportunity where I don’t think many women have crossed or walked. And me, I am who I am and I’m doing my own music in my own way and developing my own fan base and going against what people probably think I should do and what I should or shouldn’t be.”
Presley’s debut, a 12-track album released by Capitol Records, featured assistance from names like Clif Magness, Greg Wells, and Glen Ballard — who signed Presley to his label in 1998 after hearing a demo from her. “She was really down to earth, focused, very dedicated,” producer Eric Rosse told PEOPLE in 2003 of early recording sessions. The album peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200.
“We were naturally connected by the river in Memphis and Natchez and that particular ineffable vibe connected to those places,” Ballard wrote of Presley after her death Thursday. “She had a beautiful irreverent sense of humor and was soulful to the core and did her best to shine through the long shadows of Elvis & MJ.”
Upon reviewing the LP in 2003, PEOPLE noted that the album was in the making for around a decade, and that at one point ex-husband Michael Jackson was helping her on an LP. Outside of her own music, Presley notably appeared in Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” video.
The PEOPLE review also looked to lead single “Lights Out” as a standout, but noted that the rest of the LP didn’t deliver the same energy. “I never wanted to write a song, ever, about anything indicating my genetic code whatsoever, or my background. But if I had to do it, then ‘Lights Out’ would be that song,” she said at the time. “It’s kind of a darker, odd take on it. It’s not like, ‘Woo! I’m from Memphis and look at my life and it’s so wonderful.'”
Two years later, Presley released her sophomore album Now What, which was her final release under Capitol. The album featured two singles — a cover of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” and track “Idiot.” It debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200.
Track “Shine” also featured an appearance from Pink, who called her friend “funny as s—, smart as a whip, sensitive, talented, witty, mean, loving, generous, judgmental but always right, loyal, and you adored your children,” after learning of her death Thursday.
As Presley told Oprah Winfrey at the time, the album gave her a chance to define herself again. “When I put the record out I realized how much was there prior to me introducing myself and coming out in public and talking,” she said. “I was like, ‘You have no idea who I am.’ I’m introducing myself to you for the first time and you have all of these pre-conceived [ideas] of me.”
In August 2007, Presley returned to music with another posthumous duet with her father for “In the Ghetto,” and took five more years before releasing her third and final studio LP, Storm & Grace.
Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album peaked at No. 45 on the Billboard 200, and was her only album released on Universal Republic following her departure from Capitol. Burnett told Entertainment Weekly in 2012 that the duo had an “immediate connection” after he heard one of her demos.
As Presley explained in the interview, she was “hidden behind tons of production” on previous projects out of fear, but found herself writing Storm & Grace “vulnerably and organically.”
“I think I had been through such torrential experiences in my past records, being promoted and pushed in certain ways,” she said. “It was never really fun for me. I was never a pop person, I was a singer-songwriter. I’m not going to knock it all, but I was a little tapped out. So I got rid of everybody and everything from before and went to England and wrote.”
Presley’s final official release during her life came in 2018, when she sang a duet of her father’s “Where No One Stands Alone” along with his vocals once more, as part of his Where No One Stands Alone gospel compilation album.
“It was a very powerful and moving experience to sing with my father,” she wrote in the album’s liner notes, per USA Today. “The lyrics speak to me and touch my soul. I’m certain that the lyrics spoke to my father in much the same way.”