Musicheads Essential Artists: Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello
For his contributions to rock 'n' roll and beyond, Elvis Costello is a Musicheads Essential Artist (Courtesy of the artist / MPR graphic)

Each day during Minnesota Public Radio's Spring Member Drive, The Current will highlight a different artist who has made a significant contribution to the music world and a lasting impression on the music we listen to today. We call them Musicheads Essential Artists.

"Oh I just don't know where to begin," Elvis Costello sang at the beginning of "Accidents Will Happen." We feel the same way while attempting to encapsulate his remarkable career. Elvis has the most prodigious output of all of The Current's Musicheads® Essential Artists. Since he emerged in 1977, Costello has released 24 studio albums, plus collaborations with Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint, and the Roots (and the CD reissues of his early records contain a trove of B-sides, demos, and live tracks). Costello's stylistic range is virtually boundless, encompassing rock, country, pop standards, soul, jazz, classical, reggae, and R&B. And the quality of his songwriting is as rich as the musical settings; his lyrics are witty, pointed, and tender, overflowing with insight and ingeniously turned phrases. Greil Marcus wrote that Elvis "combined the brains of Randy Newman and the implacability of Bob Dylan, the everyman pathos of Buddy Holly and the uniqueness of John Lennon." Elvis put it this way: "There are about five things to write songs about: I'm leaving you. You're leaving me. I want you. You don't want me. I believe in something. Five subjects, and 12 notes. For all that, we musicians do pretty well." The Current's listeners agree that, for nearly 40 years, Elvis Costello has done it pretty well indeed. – Lou Papineau, Minnesota Public Radio member

Fun fact: In 1979, Elvis was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, which was won by A Taste of Honey (Chris Rea, the Cars, and Toto were the other runners-up).

Essential tracks: "Allison," "Lipstick Vogue," "Accidents Will Happen," "High Fidelity"

Essential albums: This Year's Model, Get Happy!!, Imperial Bedroom

The Current's program director Jim McGuinn on Elvis Costello:

Musicheads Essential Artists


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