|In an exclusive tribute, the Guns N' Roses rocker remembers his longtime friend Lisa Marie Presley after her heartbreaking death at 54
By Rachel DeSantis and Melody Chiu
Published on January 16, 2023 01:30 PM
Guns N' Roses rocker Axl Rose is remembering his close friend Lisa Marie Presley after her sudden death at age 54.
The "Sweet Child O' Mine" singer, 60, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement that losing Presley still feels surreal.
"I will miss my friend Lisa. Her passing, just as her son's, or as a kid, her father's, doesn't seem real," he says. "Lisa loved her family, all her children. My heart goes out to them."
Presley was mom to daughter Riley Keough, 33, twins Harper and Finley, 14, and son Benjamin Keough, who died by suicide in July 2020 at age 27.
Rose says he knew his friend struggled with the loss of her son, and that he did his best to remind her that he was a pillar of support if needed.
"Her son's passing was shocking, tragic and devastating. It was something that, at a point, you obviously didn't want to bring up but awkwardly would in an effort to let her know you cared and were thinking about her, about them, and to be of any comfort one could, which she appreciated," he says.
The rocker recalls trading "jokes, news articles and lots of animal vids" with Presley in the aftermath of Benjamin's death in an effort to put a smile on her face, and says he tried to "let her know of the constant thinking about her, them, and wanting the best for her."
"I wanted her to be happy, to feel good about things, at least as much as one could under the circumstances. And really, with the closeness of their relationship, one could hope — but truthfully, it didn't seem, at least without some real time passing, a reasonable reality," he says.
He continues: "What comes after life who knows but I'd like to think they're together, her and Ben with her father and Ben's grandfather in some way, and Lisa, and the most important men in her life are happy together."
Rose says that over his years of friendship with Presley, the pair talked about everything from the music industry and current events to life in general.
"I was fortunate enough to hear about her father and her experiences and memories with him first hand. She came to shows and we hung out backstage," says Rose. "It was always great to see her and she was always fun n' super supportive."
He also recalls recent discussions about Baz Luhrmann's Elvis biopic, which starred Austin Butler as The King.
"Over the last few months we spoke a lot about the Elvis movie which she was very proud of, and especially that it touched on her father's love since early childhood of black gospel, and later, the blues," he says. "She was very nervous at first of how the public would react to the film because it was so important to her to do right by her father."
Presley, the only child of the rock legend, was a fan of the film, and said at a Golden Globes pre-party just days before her death that her father would've been "proud" of the movie.
"I'm so overwhelmed by this film and the effect that it's had and what Baz has done, what Austin has done," she said. "I'm so proud. And I know that my father would also be very proud. So, I want to thank you all for being here and I — I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude, so thank you."
Presley died on Thursday after being rushed to the hospital. Her mother Priscilla Presley confirmed her death in a statement to PEOPLE, saying, "It is with a heavy heart that I must share the devastating news that my beautiful daughter Lisa Marie has left us."
"She was the most passionate strong and loving woman I have ever known," Priscilla said. "We ask for privacy as we try to deal with this profound loss. Thank you for the love and prayers. At this time there will be no further comment."