Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Quote of the Day (Elvis Costello, on the Difference Diana Krall Made in His Life)

“My opinion of myself was lower than the ground. What good could come of this new friendship?

“I thought I might be Diana's ‘confidante,’ perhaps write her a song or two. Lately I’d been pulling pianos out from under covers anytime I'd find one parked in the wings of the theater, or I'd go back to my hotel room and work upon a wretched little electric keyboard, my voice hushed against eavesdroppers, saying things that I had lately let others say for me.

“The first song I wrote was called ‘When Did I Stop Dreaming?’”— Rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink (2015)

Twenty years ago today, Elvis Costello and Diana Krall were married on Elton John’s estate outside London, in a mash-up of styles and sensibilities: he, a dark knight of Britain’s New Wave, before moving on to other genres where he continued to vent his wit, rage, and emotional turmoil; she, Canadian, cool, and composed, bringing her blond sultriness and glamour to pop standards seldom seen since the heyday of Peggy Lee.

There was also the couple's contrast in appearance. The year before the wedding, Costello recalled in his memoir, at their joint presentation of Song of the Year at the Grammys, Krall “was so beautiful. I looked like an unmade bed.”

At this point, Costello felt worse than he admitted looking. With a difficult 17-year relationship with Cait O’Riordan ending, he was as mired in the slough of despond as he had been during his great 1998 collaboration with Burt Bacharach, Painted From Memory (which I discussed in this blog post from a few weeks ago).

Meeting Krall lightened Costello’s heart when he was, as the stark title of one of his songs from that period went, “In the Darkest Place.”

As the mutual admiration of Costello and Krall grew into friendship, though, she turned to him for comfort as well, as she experienced within two months the deaths of her mother and one of her mentors, bassist Ray Brown. Costello observed, “The imminent intensity of our friendship was bound up in this powerful sorrow.”

Most people don’t end up marrying the friends who pull them to shore just as they think they’re drowning inside, let alone joining them in family and creative unions. (Costello helped his wife write a haunting lament for her mother, “Departure Bay.”) But in whatever form it takes, the kindness of those who unexpectedly enter our lives can make a real difference, a light in a season of darkness.

(The image accompanying this post, showing Elvis Costello and Diana Krall on the red carpet at the 2009 Juno Awards in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was taken on Mar. 29, 2009, by Shayne Kaye.)

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