Elvis Costello has enjoyed an extraordinary 61 years on earth and 38 years in the music business, and he recounts the many highlights and lowlights of both in his new 700-page memoir, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink (Blue Pride Press). The rock legend spoke with Billboard about a few of his life’s key moments.
His 1979 brawl with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett, in which he used racial slurs to describe James Brown and Ray Charles: “I uttered words that were the opposite of my feelings. I have no explanation why, other than provoking those people. If I had been less drunk I could’ve surely found a more personal way to start a fight. But a book is a great place for an . People can read and know my first and last word about it.”
The 2011 death of his father, trumpeter Ross McManus — and writing about it: “I could’ve made a dramatic flourish of ending the book on his death, but music carried him to the very last door. And the point of this [book] is it carried me beyond the worst thing that ever happened to me: to lose him. I wanted to have a more optimistic ending. Something of value comes out of [my struggles]: the love I have for all my family.”
His 2013 song with The Roots, “The Puppet Has Cut His Strings”: “I wrote a literal recitation of my father’s last moments. I had no idea I was going to do that. I had told myself it was beyond me to write about, in book or song. But if I hadn’t written that song, I wouldn’t have completed the book in the same way. It goes to show the trust you place in music; my father’s last solace was music.”