The English singer-songwriter and actor Elvis Costello (born Declan Patrick McManus) began his musical career in the London pub early in the 1970s.
In 1977, he released his debut album, My Aim Is True, which lit a rocket taking him to stardom in the still-forming new wave music scene. Costello’s band, the Attractions, joined him soon after the album’s release and supported him on This Year’s Model (1978), Armed Forces (1979), and remained with him for almost ten years until they parted ways due to differences. Together, they released 11 studio recordings, plus live and compilation albums.
A versatile writer and performer, Costello was backed by Britain’s Brodsky Quartet in 1993 on his album of songs for classical string quartet and voice titled The Juliet Letters (imaginary letters by the Juliet Capulet character from Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet). Then, in 1996, Costello collaborated with orchestral/lounge pop composer and musician Burt Bacharach. This partnership produced recordings for the soundtracks of the films Grace of My Heart and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, plus the duo’s 1998 album Painted From Memory, which my sweety and I used to listen to a lot with dear friends we met later that year.
Even Costello’s early works show a variety of stylings from the slow, ode-like “Alison” (a song since covered by Linda Ronstadt and others) or the melancholy “Good Year for the Roses” to quicker, high-energy pieces like “Pump It Up” and today’s selection, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” which comes from the American and Canadian versions of Armed Forces.
Browsing through my CD and digital music this week, the title jumped out at me. It was written and recorded in 1974 by English singer-songwriter Nick Lowe and his band, Brinsley Schwarz, though their release of the song did not achieve the same success as Costello and the Attractions’ cover.
The song’s title and sentiments seem appropriate for this time in history when divisive politics are infecting society with fear, mistrust, cynicism, anger and meanness, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic create isolation like many have never experienced before.
“As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I wanna know:
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love and understanding?
What’s so funny ‘bout peace love and understanding?”
(from “[What’s So Funny ‘Bout] Peace, Love and Understanding,” by Nick Lowe)
As we navigate these troubled times, may we all pause to be peace, love and understanding for all those we encounter, in person, at a distance, and online.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the official music video from Elvis Costello’s YouTube channel:
The full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.