Who Is Elvis Costello?

Singer/songwriter Elvis Costello was first signed to a record label in the late 1970s. His music took the energy and cynicism of punk and combined it with the more sophisticated lyrics and structure of new wave music, resulting in hits like “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes,” “Alison,” “Everyday I Write the Book” and “Veronica.”

Early Life

Beginning as one of Britain’s new wave artists of the late 1970s and early ’80s, Elvis Costello wrote and recorded a string of albums that challenged not only the musical style of the era, but the myriad styles of popular music.

Costello was born Declan Patrick McManus in London, England, on August 25, 1954, to father Ross McManus, a British big-band singer, and mother Lilian Alda, a record store manager. Inspired by the musical freedom left in the wake of the Sex Pistols, Costello threw off the shackles of his workaday office job as a computer programmer and played his first gig in 1970, performing his own compositions in a London folk club. He took the stage name Elvis Costello in the late 1970s, when he was first signed to a record label.

Debut Album: ‘My Aim Is True’

Costello released a stellar debut album, My Aim Is True, on the small British label Stiff in 1977; the album included such hits as “Alison” and “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes.” His music took the energy and cynicism of punk and combined it with the more sophisticated lyrics and structure of new wave music. Also in 1977, Costello was first introduced to America on Saturday Night Live.

Far more conscious of pop song-craft than other bands of the era, Costello, along with his backup group, the Attractions, went on to record a series of meticulously composed yet edgy albums that ranged in style from straightforward power-pop to soul and country. Costello was joined by the Attractions, a three-piece group, on his second album, This Year’s Model (released in 1978 and including the hit “Pump It Up”), and would continue to work with the trio on most of his albums for the next eight years.

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Icon of New Wave

Costello scored his first U.S. Top 40 single in 1983 with “Everyday I Write the Book,” from the album Punch the Clock (1983), which also included the popular single “Shipbuilding,” a collaboration between Costello and Clive Langer. Later hits include “Veronica,” from his 1989 album Spike—named in reference to wacky 1940s band leader Spike Jones—and “The Other Side of Summer,” from 1991’s Mighty Like a Rose.

Known for inventive collaborations, Costello has recorded with numerous musicians, including rock/pop icons Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach, with whom he won a Grammy Award in 1999 for “I Still Have That Other Girl” (best pop collaboration with vocals). Costello has also produced for a number of bands, including the Pogues, Squeeze and the Specials.

Going into the new millennium, Costello continued to release albums that showcased his willingness to explore a variety of themes, including the orchestral Il Signo (2002) and The River in Reverse (2006), his collaboration with pianist/songwriter Allen Toussaint. Costello later worked with hip-hop group/Jimmy Fallon band The Roots for 2013’s Wise Up Ghost.

In 2015, Costello released his lengthy autobiography, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.

Personal Life

Costello has been married three times. He wed first wife Mary Burgoyne in 1974; the couple divorced in 1984. Two years later, he married musician Cait O’Riordan of the Pogues. The two parted ways in 2002, and the following year, Costello wed Canadian jazz singer/pianist Diana Krall. The two worked together on her 2004 album The Girl in the Other Room.


  • Name: Elvis Costello
  • Birth Year: 1954
  • Birth date: August 25, 1954
  • Birth City: London, England
  • Birth Country: United Kingdom
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: British singer/songwriter Elvis Costello extended the lyrical range of punk and new wave music with songs like “Alison,” “Everyday I Write the Book” and “Veronica.”
  • Industries
    • Music
  • Astrological Sign: Virgo
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