The Somber Meaning Behind Lisa Marie Presley’s 2003 Single “Lights Out”

Just 20 years before her death on Jan. 12, 2023, at the age of 54, Lisa Marie Presley released her debut album. To Whom It May Concern was Presley exposing some of the deeply personal ends of her life with an assemblage of 11 songs she co-wrote, leading off with a song about her famous family: “Lights Out.”

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Here is the meaning behind the song:

Elvis Presley

In her somber ballad, which she co-wrote with Glen Ballard and Clif Magness, “Lights Out” starts at the beginning, specifically the death of her father Elvis Presley on Aug. 16, 1977.

Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Lisa Marie continued to spend time with her father while visiting Graceland, following his divorce from her mother Priscilla in 1973.

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Elvis and Lisa Marie always remained close, up until his death when she was just 9 years old.

You were a million miles behind
And I was crying every time I’d leave you
Then I didn’t want to see you
I still keep my watch two hours behind

Someone turned the lights out there in Memphis
Ooh, that’s where my family’s buried and gone (gone)
Oh yeah
Last time I was there I noticed a space left
Oh, next to them there in Memphis, yeah
In the damn back lawn

Sadly, Lisa Marie was also at Graceland when her father passed away and witnessed his death. Earlier in the morning (around 4 a.m.) when her father kissed her goodnight, she said that she knew it may be the last time.

“I just had a feeling,” shared Lisa Marie. “He wasn’t doing well. All I know is I had it [a feeling], and it happened. I was obsessed with death at a very early age.”

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Graceland Gravesite

Presley repeats that Memphis is where her family is all buried and gone in the chorus. Presley is referring to Graceland being the burial site of the Presley family, who are interred on the grounds, including her paternal grandparents, Gladys and Vernon, her father, and her son Benjamin Keough, who died at the age of 27 in 2020.

In the chorus, Presley sings the more eery Last time I was there I noticed a space left.


Throughout the lyrics, the meaning shifts around Lisa Marie’s love-hate relationship with Memphis, but her connection to Graceland since her family is there.

Was that bridge I was crossing?
Somewhere I stopped walking
I guess I fell off on my own

I heard all the roads they lead to Memphis
Ooh, except for the one I’m stumbling down (down)
And I’ll, I’ll be damned if I ever get this
Little son of a bitch from Memphis
Oh, someday I guess I guess
Yeah and I haven’t forgot

“Don’t Cry Daddy”

Prior to the release of To Whom It May Concern, Lisa Marie released a single and video for “Don’t Cry Daddy” in 1997, a posthumous duet with her father marking the 20th anniversary of his death. “Don’t Cry Daddy” was originally written by Mac Davis for Elvis, who recorded and released it in 1969 and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 2005, Lisa Marie released a second duet with her father, another Mac Davis-penned hit, “In The Ghetto.” She had another posthumous reunion with Elvis for a rendition of the 1949 Leon Payne country hit “I Love You Because.” Elvis also covered the song and released it on his self-titled debut in 1956.

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To Whom It May Concern

Released on April 8, 2003, To Whom It May Concern reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart and was later certified gold.

Lisa Marie later released her follow-up, Now What, in 2005 and her third and final album, Storm & Grace, in 2012.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Wonderwall

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