British singer/songwriter Elvis Costello defended musicians who speak their minds in these "fairly dangerous times" and warned Americans to guard against "any attempts by people who swindle their way

British singer/songwriter Elvis Costello defended musicians who speak their minds in these "fairly dangerous times" and warned Americans to guard against "any attempts by people who swindle their way into office." He made the remarks yesterday (May 20) at a Beverly Hill, Calif., event where he was being honored by songwriters society ASCAP.

Costello also criticized the British political system, which he described as "privileged people handing wigs to one another making the laws of the land."

The 48-year-old musician drew loud cheers from the black-tie audience, which included fellow artists Stevie Wonder, Rick James, Burt Bacharach, Solomon Burke, and Nelly.

His comments came amid concerns that singers and actors who spoke out against the U.S.-led war in Iraq are being blacklisted.

"We all live in fairly dangerous times in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of expression," Costello said. "A lot of the songwriters that I've admired and learned from ... are people who spoke in matters of conscience as well as matters of the heart. I think that it's essential that we defend that right."

As previously reported, Costello will be back on the road this summer, kicking off a summer North American tour July 2 in Toronto. On most dates he'll be backed by his band, the Imposters, while select shows will feature only Costello and keyboardist Steve Nieve.


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