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The Very Good Second Best Elvis

Elvis Costello’s birth name is Declan Patrick  MacManus. He changed it in 1977 and, nine years later, back to the original — only he threw in “Aloysius” after Patrick.

There is a lot to like about Costello in addition to his epic name. He’s married to the pianist Diana Krall, he and/or his fans keep two great websites — check out the detail of the bio in this one — and he had the good sense and good fortune to record with Burt Bacharach.

AllMusic cuts right to the point on how important Costello is:

When Elvis Costello’s first record was released in 1977, his bristling cynicism and anger linked him with the punk and new wave explosion. A cursory listen to My Aim Is True proves that the main connection that Costello had with the punks was his unbridled passion; he tore through rock’s back pages taking whatever he wanted, as well as borrowing from country, Tin Pan Alley pop, reggae, and many other musical genres. Over his career, that musical eclecticism distinguished his records as much as his fiercely literate lyrics. Because he supported his lyrics with his richly diverse music, Costello emerged as one of the most innovative, influential, and best songwriters since Bob Dylan. (Continue Reading…)

I find that when folks care enough about an artist to post a list of their ten top songs, they usually get it about right. Here is one such list, from Bonnie Stiernberg at Paste. Above is Any King’s Shilling, which is based on the World War I experiences of Costello’s grandfather. Below is the more familiar I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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