The Words and Music of Elvis Costello
by James E. Perone
May 2015, 204pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3215-4
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3216-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Elvis Costello has been a genre-boundary-breaking musician for nearly 40 years.

This book provides in-depth analysis of the words, music, and recordings of Elvis Costello, one of the most enigmatic, eclectic, and critically acclaimed singer-songwriters of the rock era.

Elvis Costello is one of the greatest pop songwriters of his generation as well as one of the most significant songwriters of the 20th century. His career’s length now approaching four decades, Costello continues to be vital part of pop culture through live performances, recordings, and the iconic nature of his work. The Words and Music of Elvis Costello provides in-depth analysis of this important artist’s words, music, and recordings.

Arranged chronologically, the book places Costello in the cultural context of his time and place; addresses the overlaps between rock, classical, torch song, and jazz in Costello’s highly eclectic range of songs from 1975 to the present; provides a look at the uniquely British aspects of his work; and uniquely spotlights his compositional techniques and approaches to musical form.

The book covers everything from Costello’s first album My Aim Is True as well as his other albums in the 1970s to his body of work in the ’80s and ’90s to his continuing eclecticism in the 21st century as he successfully integrates what would appear to be mutually exclusive genres. The concluding chapter provides analysis of the critical commentary about Elvis Costello’s work as a performer and songwriter over his long career.


  • Provides expert analysis of the words and music of Elvis Costello within a cultural context that will benefit readers interested in popular music as well as popular music scholars and serious fans of Elvis Costello
  • Explains the uniquely British aspects of Costello's work and illuminates the role that Costello's Irish-Catholic heritage plays in his work
  • Places Costello's work within the context of postmodernism
  • Provides in-depth analysis of Costello's approach to musical form—an approach that is highly unusual among rock musicians
James E. Perone, PhD, is associate dean of the faculty and Margaret Morgan Ramsey Professor in music at the University of Mount Union, Alliance, OH. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in clarinet performance, a master's degree in music theory, and a doctorate in music theory from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He also earned a Bachelor of Music in music education from Capital University. Perone is the series editor of The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection and the author of Praeger's The Words and Music of Prince, The Words and Music of Carole King, and The Words and Music of Melissa Etheridge as well as Greenwood's Music of the Counterculture Era.
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