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 one and the wheel feature in the other — 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.


  • Soul of Wit

    Second best? I don’t see that other Elvis on the ten best songwriters list. Then again, it is a list of living songwriters, and people keep insisting that Presley is still dead.

    Elvis (McManus) is often underestimated. His singing voice is phenomenal. He is a better country artist than many who have sung strictly country. His song “Almost Blue” has been covered by rocker Gwen Stefani, jazz vocalist Chet Baker and Mrs. Costello (better known as Diana Krall.)

    The surprise on the Paste list is Springsteen. I’m a huge fan of his endless live shows—and he’s written many a fine song—but I never thought of him in the same league with Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Brian Wilson.

    Elvis on SNL, unexpectedly performing the not-quite-radio-friendly “Radio, Radio”, in 1977…

[ninja-inline id=13465]

About The Author