Declan McManus, who is most commonly known to us as the singer Elvis Costello, is someone of whom I have been a moderate fan since the late 1980s.
I was rather saddened but somewhat unsurprised by his recent announcement that he will no longer be performing ‘Oliver’s Army’, his anti-military song (the British Army traces its origins back to the Model Army created by Oliver Cromwell), due to the use of the sometimes racially inflammatory use of the n-word in it.
It is a very boppy song, and the context in which the n-word is used, implying that the poor white trash of the UK are the ones who end up on the front lines fighting for the Empire, is one where I think that the use of the n-word would not have caused offence, although it would probably have some significant shock value.
And it is both morally and musically a better use of that word than what Kanye West uses it for in his music (have you heard ‘Gold Digger’, the song which presumably was the bridal waltz at Kanye and Kim K’s wedding?).
As I indicated above, I was not surprised. Whilst I do not really follow his career closely, I did once watch the TV program ‘The Juliet Letters’ about some music he did just after the first Iraq War where he expressed some rather harsh views about some female fan in the military who had written to him from the war zone.
Which leads me to conclude that Elvis Costello has been what we now call ‘woke’ since prehistoric times.
But I don’t really care about that as he does have quite a lot of other fine songs I enjoy, such as ‘Veronica’, ‘Watching the Detectives’, and ‘Ship Building’ for example. He also does collaborations with various fantastic musicians, such as his current wife, the delectable Diana Krall, a jazz singer known for her fantastic interpretation of the American Songbook, and Burt Bacharach.
As a particular treat, he did a performance with Fiona Apple in 2006, where she did two of his songs, and he did two of her songs. Google their performance of ‘I want you’, a song where Fiona Apple sings with unbridled yearning of great intensity (I would have attached a link from YouTube but somehow that doesn’t work).