Benjamin Keough's Friend Says He Struggled with 'Pressure' of Presley Family Name Prior to Death
Benjamin Keough, the son of Lisa Marie Presley and grandson of Elvis Presley, died by suicide on Sunday
Musician Brandon Howard is speaking out about his friend Benjamin Keough's tragic death.
"Sometimes he struggled with depression, which is a serious thing with [the coronavirus pandemic] and everything happening right now and everybody being locked in the house," Howard tells PEOPLE. "It takes a lot. I wish I could have been there."
Howard says the pressure to live up to the Presley family name "absolutely" contributed to Keough's struggles.
"That kind of pressure is definitely a part of what happened," he says. "It's a tough thing when you have a lot of pressure with your family and living up to a name and an image. It's a lot of pressure. It's almost like you're pressured into having to be a musician, having to be an actor. It was good for him to go around the world and discover himself and have his own friends. You never know what triggers it. You never know ... It's so random."
Despite his own battles, Keough was always the first one there when his friends needed help, Howard says.
"He has always been there for everybody," he says. "In any kind of situation, he would be the one who would come crash with you on the couch for weeks until you're actually feeling better."
Howard first met Benjamin after Lisa Marie, 52, married Michael Jackson in 1994. In the '80s, Jackson's father Joe managed Howard's mother, "Baby, Be Mine" singer Miki Howard.
Lisa Marie and Jackson divorced in 1996, but Keough and Howard remained close in the years since. They even dubbed their friend group with Corey Feldman "the lost boys."
"As adults, we had a brotherhood and a kind of respect," Howard says. "We always felt we are who we are and we just got to be the best we can for different people around us."
"He would be the one I talked to when a lot of stuff was going around about me and questions about who I am and where I come from," he continues. "He was like, 'Who does that serve? Does that serve you or does that serve everyone else's purpose? You are who you are, I am who I am. So it's up to us. We don't have anything to prove. We just live our lives. Those who know it, they know.'"
In addition to being a talented musician, Keough was "an excellent chef" and all around "wonderful" human, Howard says.
"He was super inspiring," he says. "He was cool and very intelligent, intelligent beyond his years. He was multi-faceted. He could be anywhere from serious, giving advice, to like super crazy and wild and dancing and partying. He was a very loving person as a brother."
As to what he'll miss most about Keough, Howard says it's his "laugh and his eyes."
"He had the craziest laugh," he says. "I want people to know about his humility. He wasn't a spoiled kid. He was very humble, very giving, very loving, especially to his friends. It's just wild. There's nothing like this."
On Sunday, a representative for Lisa Marie told PEOPLE that the star is "beyond devastated" over the death of her son, whom she shares with ex-husband Danny Keough.
"She is completely heartbroken, inconsolable and beyond devastated but trying to stay strong for her 11-year-old twins and her oldest daughter Riley," Roger Widynowski said. "She adored that boy. He was the love of her life."
Presley is also mother to actress daughter Riley Keough, 31, and 11-year-old twin daughters, Harper and Finley, whom she shares with ex-husband Michael Lockwood.
"Lisa Marie is in disbelief," a source close to the family tells PEOPLE. "She doesn't want to believe that [Benjamin] is gone. She is heartbroken and won't stop crying."
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Carlos Eric Lopez
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