This unlikely reincarnation of Elvis supports his lyrics with such diverse music that Elvis Costello is one of the most innovative and influential songwriters since Bob Dylan.

He is the son of British bandleader Ross McManus. His given name is Declan MacManus, and our old friend pingouin has an excellent writeup in that node. Much better than this one. Go read it and then come back here if you want to know which songs I like the best.

Declan worked as a computer programmer during the early '70s, performing under the name D.P. Costello in various folk clubs. When his first record was released in 1977, his cynicism and anger got him linked in with the punk and new wave explosion. But if you really listen to My Aim Is True, you can see that the only real connection he had with the punks was passion.

He wound up taking his first name from Elvis Presley and his last name from his mother's maiden name.

I began listening to him when a couple of friends of mine in a local punk band began covering his tunes from My Aim is True.

Here is what I have found valuable in his oeuvre:

"Alison" and "Watching the Detectives" from My Aim is True, 1977. Linda Ronstadt made a hit of "Alison," but his version is far superior.

"Radio Radio," "Green Shirt" and "Big Boys" from This Year's Model, 1978.

"Accidents Will Happen," "Two Little Hitlers," and "Chemistry Class" from Armed Forces, 1979.

After three lackluster efforts, Imperial Bedroom in 1982 is the masterpiece. This was an ambitious set of lushly arranged pop produced by Geoff Emerick, who engineered several of the Beatles' most acclaimed albums. There's not a bad song on here, and if you want to learn about the art of Elvis Costello, I think this is the perfect place to start.

"Let Them All Talk," "The Greatest Thing" and the marvelous Everyday I Write the Book from Punch the Clock in 1983.

"The Only Flame in Town" (with support from Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates), and probably the best song he's ever written, "Worthless Thing," on Goodbye Cruel World in 1984.

Costello and Paul McCartney wrote the single "Veronica" in 1987 which became his biggest American hit, peaking at number 19.

Then he come up with his most unlikely collaboration, Painted from Memory, done with the legendary Burt Bacharach in 1998. I've tried to like this, but "Toledo" is the only song that I can remember with fondness here.

Costello has said some things that were on his mind, and that's not cool these days in the climate of political correctness. But he's one of the greatest lyricists around; a modern day Cole Porter, if you will. It would behoove you to listen to him.

One of the more famous incidents involving Elvis Costello goes to show how anyone can make mistakes and you can be forgiven, but you will always have to deal with them. The famous incident in question culminated in him calling Ray Charles a "blind, ignorant nigger."

While at a shitty hotel bar in Columbus, Ohio, Elvis got into an argument over the validity of American music with Bonnie Bramlett(of Delaney & Bonnie fame). Guilty of being drunk, and a snarky Brit at the time, Elvis started trying to say things that would get a rise out of Bramlett. He was eventually successful with his nigger comment as she punched him in the face, knocking him from his barstool immediately following his uttering of it.

Obviously, his reputation took a serious hit in America after the incident. Elvis shortly after had a press conference in New York, apologizing and explaining the circumstances of the incident. The apology had little help in recovering his reputation in the states even though his comments were certainly out of place; just a few months before Elvis had a large hand in the forming of England's "Rock Against Racism" tour and continued to be involved in it after.

Ray eventually made public comments forgiving Elvis for the incident.

In later years Costello had the chance to meet Ray several times but passed them up because "any apology after all these years would do little more than embarrass everyone present, all I could do was turn my head away with shame and frustration knowing that this was a hand I will probably never shake ... I have also found that guilt is a burden without any statute of limitations."

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