Living in the Shadow of The King: Benjamin Keough’s Tragic Story

Elvis Presley, the King of Rock, is one of the most recognizable characters in history. Every aspect of his life was under a microscope, from his love life to his drug use to his family. 

Even though he tragically passed in 1977, he had one daughter before he died: Lisa Marie Presley. 

Following in her father’s footsteps, she became a musician, although never of the same caliber as her father. She has still benefited from her celebrity though.

She married celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage. However, her four children came from her other two marriages to actor Danny Keough and musician Michael Lockwood. 

Her children with Keough would become celebrities in their own right. Riley Keough has become a star of the Mad Max series, while Benjamin was the spitting image of his grandfather. 

Also like his grandfather, Benjamin’s life would come to a shocking and tragic end too early. 

Benjamin, left, and Elvis. Page Six

Living Under the Presley Name

Benjamin Keough lived a life of privilege and burden. He had to carry the weight of his grandfather’s legacy. 

Born on October 21, 1992, Benjamin was the only son of Elvis Presley’s only child. He found himself growing up in a world full of fame and celebrity even without the last name Presley.  

The Presley legacy remained strong in both the music industry and popular culture, and that loomed over Benjamin in his early life. It applied a pressure few others would ever understand. 

To add to the difficulty of handling such a massive legacy, Benjamin also bore a striking resemblance to his grandfather. 

Everywhere he went, Benjamin struggled with his very existence being tied to that of Elvis. People asked for his photograph or joked about Elvis standing just offstage at various events. 

His mother recounted a story once of Benjamin being backstage at the Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. Anytime the audience noticed Benjamin in the wings their attention was drawn to him, and they clambored to get pictures with him. 

Lisa also mentioned that the resemblance to her father is so uncanny that she sometimes would become overwhelmed just looking at Benjamin. 

While it was nearly impossible for Benjamin to separate himself from his family lineage, it was also sometimes a blessing. As he began to explore what path he wanted to take in life, he found himself falling into the family industry: entertainment. 

Benjamin in 2010. Mark Humphrey/AP

It is rumored that as Benjamin began exploring a career in music, his talent and family connections landed him a contract with Universal in 2009. At just 17 years old, he had a record deal worth $5 million. 

The contract had an option of up to five albums. Benjamin recorded some of his songs, but none of the music recorded was ever actually released. Universal executives have gone on the record saying that the contract was a rumor. 

Either way, without a solo career of his own, Benjamin continued to live in his grandfather’s shadow. 

A Life Cut Tragically Short

Any further ambition would sadly be cut short though. On July 12, 2020, news broke of Benjamin Keough’s heartbreaking death at the age of 27. 

He was found in his home in Calabasas, California with what was reported as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. As the grandson of a rockstar, the news spread far and wide with fans and celebrities joining with their condolences alongside family and friends. 

It is unclear specifically what caused Benjamin’s decision to take his own life. Perhaps it was watching his mother face financial stress due to her financial manager mismanaging funds, or her impending fourth divorce. 

Maybe it was being raised in the Church of Scientology, where his parents had met and which Benjamin had actively spoken out against during his life claiming it “messes you up.” It also may have been the result of a long struggle with drug and alcohol problems.

Benjamin had only recently completed a stint in rehab for his addiction before that tragic night. Regardless of the reason, his death had a tragic impact on his family. 

Navigating Grief and Loss

Benjamin’s death cast a light on the mental challenges faced by people whose entire lives are lived under the microscope of the public eye. 

Even for celebrity families who are dynasties such as the Presleys with three generations of stars, the limelight can have adverse effects if not approached carefully. Lisa in particular was devastated, as her manager claimed she loved Benjamin more than anything. 

She felt guilt around Benjamin’s death. She faced accusations from members of the public in another display of the toxicity of a public presence. 

Benjamin’s friends also went on the record to discuss the tragedy. They highlighted the pressure that comes with carrying a family name and the depression he had faced as a result. 

Lisa would outlive her son by almost three years, passing away in January of 2023. She never fully recovered from his death, living life in a haze and regretting the loss. 

Lisa Marie Presley and Ben Keough’s graves in Graceland

Benjamin’s death adds to and complicates the Presley legacy. Not only does the name represent the stardom of Elvis, but it also represents the harsh reality of celebrity life. 

Living under a microscope while also having limitless expectations forced upon you from birth is too much for anyone to handle. Let alone a young man trying to find himself in the world. 

Hopefully, Benjamin’s life and the discussions that followed his death will impact the way people treat celebrities in the future and act as a reminder that every individual is their own person. 


Mazzeo, Esme. “Before her death, Lisa Marie Presley said she blamed herself ‘every single day’ for her son Benjamin’s death.” Business Insider, January 13, 2023.

BBC Editors. “Benjamin Keough: Coroner says Elvis’s grandson took his own life.” BBC News, July 15, 2020.

Gill, Cassie and Terry Zeller. “Benjamin Keough: 5 Things About Lisa Marie Presley’s Son, 27, Who Died 2 Years Before Her.” Hollywood Life, January 13, 2023.

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