Elvis Presley: Priscilla and Lisa Marie discuss singer in 2012
Elvis’ entire life was defined by his music, but few of his iconic songs were actually that personal to him. All great songs find a universal resonance, plus he brought all of his considerable vocal talents to recordings and added charisma and stagecraft to their live performances. But it’s one of the music legend’s later, lesser-known songs that speaks directly about his own life and that of his young daughter. He sings about the tears he cries when they are separated and her pain that her parents are no longer together.
Lisa Marie, of course, has become a musician in her own right. Starting with her 2003 debut album, To Whom It May Concern, she has used her own songwriting to work through her feelings about her father’s complicated life and tragic death.
The artist admits she is drawn to the “darker” side of emotions and this is reflected in her favourite Elvis songs.
She said: “I’m more prone to the Seventies stuff because I was around then. They bring back more memories. The sad ones, I get into… The dark ones that weren’t particularly a hit on the radio. Mary in the Morning. In the Ghetto. Just Pretend. Solitaire. Those I love.”
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But there is one track that particularly strikes a chord.
In another interview, Lisa Marie said: “I like the Seventies material because I was around for those recordings.
“There was some great stuff that never made it to the radio: a song called Mary in the Morning, which I loved… In the Ghetto.
“I like the darker songs, the sad ones. There’s a song called Separate Ways that was treacherously painful.”
The song was released in September 1972, with the iconic Always On My Mind on the B-side.
Incredibly, it was written by one of Elvis’ own inner circle, his Memphis Mafia, a man Lisa Marie would later condemn as a “disgusting idiot.. a mother****er.”
Separate Wats was written by Robert ‘Red” West, one of Elvis’ bodyguards in May 1972, along with rising songwriter Richard Mainegra.
Mainegra said: “We started leaning the storyline toward Elvis’ break-up with Priscilla and how it affected their daughter.
“He (Red) told me when it was finished Elvis was going to cut the song. I let that go in one ear and out the other. I thought, ‘No way!’ First of all, why would Elvis want to sing about his personal life that was already being dragged through the media every day?'”
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Elvis, however, embraced the track, which also gave its name to a compilation album that same year.
The lyrics start: “I see a change is coming to our lives, It’s not the same as it used to be, And it’s not too late to realise our mistake, We’re just not right for each other.
Love has slipped away left us only friends, We almost seem like strangers, All that’s left between us are the memories we shared, Of times we thought we cared for each other.”
Elvis and Priscilla had already separated and would divorce in 1973. The next verses refer directly to Lisa Marie, who was only four years old at time.
The song continues: “There’s nothing left to do but go our separate ways, And pick up all the pieces left behind us, And maybe someday, somewhere along the way, Another love will find us.
“Some day when she’s older, maybe she will understand, Why her mom and dad are not together. The tears that she will cry when I have to say goodbye, Will tear at my heart forever.”
It seems even more tragic that the song was written by a man Lisa Marie came to denounce when she was older.
Red West was one of the three members of the Memphis Mafia, along with his cousin Sonny West, and David Hebler, who had been fired from their jobs and wrote a tell-all book. Elvis, What Happened? was released two weeks before the star’s death on August 16, 1977, and caused him considerable distress.
Almost all of the Memphis Mafia went on to release further books and take part in documentaries, which Lisa Marie came to regard as a betrayal and ghoulish exploitation of her father’s memory and dignity.
In 2003, she blasted an E! True Hollywood Story about her father which featured Red West.
She said: “It actually did me in, emotionally, for days. What made me angry was the interviews with the mother****ers who hung around him.
“These idiots were so disgusting… they helped him go down and were actually worse than he was. It infuriated me. They were trying to take away his dignity, the one thing that was most important to him.”
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