Elvis Costello Artist Profile

Eclectic singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, performing live at the Palladium (NYC) circa 1981.
Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images


Declan Patrick McManus on August 25, 1954 in London, England

Early Years:

Born in London to a musically inclined father of Irish descent, Declan McManus didn't take long to tackle music himself, forming his first band in 1971 after moving to Liverpool. By the mid '70s the young artist had become quite involved in England's burgeoning pub rock scene, writing songs and performing under the name D.P.

Costello as he could while supporting himself working various office jobs. In 1977, the strength of a demo tape helped get the singer signed to indie label Stiff Records, at which time he took his better-known stage name, drawing from an obvious rock and roll source.

Debut and Early Associations with Punk Rock:

Costello's classic 1977 debut, My Aim Is True, was recorded with the American band Clover, which would later become Huey Lewis and the News. However, it would take only a few months for Costello to settle on his permanent backing band, the Attractions. Through the remainder of the '70s the singer-songwriter would remain a critical darling, releasing two more albums that loosely fit into the punk/new wave vein of the time. During this time, Costello began to experience increased success in America, particularly through the musical if not lyrical accessibility of "Oliver's Army," one of his finest singles.

As the '80s Begin, So Do the Reinventions of Elvis Costello:

Although the music industry tried its damnedest to pigeonhole Costello first as an angry punk rocker and then a new wave artist, the singer himself simply chose to make the music he wanted, for his own reasons and on his own terms. 1980's Get Happy!! was a celebration of soul music, and Costello deepened his eclecticism immediately on subsequent releases, puzzling the new wave-inclined tremendously with 1981's classic country covers collection, Almost Blue.

Not until 1983 would Costello release another slightly more "typical" record in Punch the Clock, an album that yielded the modest hit "Every Day I Write the Book."

Retirement and Comeback:

With the release of the aptly titled Goodbye Cruel World, Costello seemed to be on a steep decline musically, even going so far as to announce a retirement at this time. But the brief break from the Attractions didn’t last long, as Costello returned in 1986 with two albums, one folk-oriented effort in King of America and a straightforward rock album called Blood & Chocolate. All of this simply proved Costello's persistence as a vibrant, evolving artist who may never have defined nor been defined by the '80s but nonetheless was a major musical force during that decade.

Elvis Costello Into the '90s and Well Beyond:

Costello would release only one more album before the decade came to a close, and it just so happened to feature his biggest American hit, 1989’s melodic "Veronica," a song co-written with Beatles legend Paul McCartney. In the nearly two decades since, Costello has managed to both deepen his legacy as well as maintain a rare, high level of consistency as an artist capable of releasing relevant new material over the course of a long, rich career.

Of course, he’s also found time to collaborate with musical artists as disparate as Burt Bacharach and Allen Toussaint, maverick moves that no longer surprise us.