Elvis Costello has revealed that he will no longer perform “Oliver’s Army”, one of his most popular songs, and has also urged radio stations to stop playing it.
Written about the conflict in Northern Ireland, the song contains the lyrics: “Only takes one itchy trigger/ One more widow, one less white n*****.”
The 67-year-old singer defended his use of the slur in the song due to a historical “fact”. But he said he will stop performing it before anyone “accuses” him of “something he didn’t intend”.
“If I wrote that song today, maybe I’d think twice about it,” Costello told The Telegraph. “That’s what my grandfather was called in the British army – it’s historically a fact – but people hear that word go off like a bell and accuse me of something that I didn’t intend.
“On the last tour, I wrote a new verse about censorship, but what’s the point of that?” he continued. “So I’ve decided I’m not going to play it. [Bleeping the word] is a mistake. They’re making it worse by bleeping it for sure. Because they’re highlighting it then. Just don’t play the record!”
Costello added that radio stations will “do him a favour” by not playing the 1979 song anymore.
“Because when I fall under a bus, they’ll play ‘She’, ‘Good Year For The Roses’ and ‘Oliver’s Army’,” he added. “I’ll die, and they will celebrate my death with two songs I didn’t write. What does that tell you?”
“Good Year For The Roses” was penned by Jerry Chesnut and performed by George Jones, while “She” was originally written and performed by Charles Aznavour. Costello released cover versions of the songs in 1981 and 1999, respectively.
On Friday (14 January), Costello & The Imposters are set to release their new album The Boy Named If. So far, they’ve released three singles “Magnificent Hurt”, “Farewell, OK” and “Paint the Red Rose Blue” from the album.