Elvis Costello has been awarded an O.B.E. – the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire – for his contributions to music as part of the annual Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
“I am happy to accept this very surprising honour,” Costello wrote in a long statement Friday. “To be honest, I’m pretty tickled to receive this acknowledgement for my ‘Services To Music,’ as it confirms my long held suspicion nobody really listens to the words in songs or the outcome might have been somewhat different.”
In a post on Costello’s website, the rocker wrote about his reaction upon first receiving the letter and how he was initially going to turn down the honor; now-former Prime Minister Teresa May recommended Costello for the award.
“I have to admit that my first reaction, upon receiving an [Of His Majesty’s Service] letter was, ‘Oh no, they’ve finally tumbled me,’” Costello wrote. “For those of you who enjoy irony, I was standing in my dressing room, at the ‘Queen Elizabeth Theatre’ at the time. That’s Vancouver, British Columbia, you know. The pink has stained the map all over the world.”
However, upon notifying his mother Lillian MacManus of the O.B.E., Costello reconsidered his stance. “I began my call by telling my Mam that the Prime Minister, Mrs. May, had put my name forward for an O.B.E. ‘But she’s rubbish,’ Lillian cut in before I could complete the news. Well, that aside, I said, ‘Of course, I won’t be accepting the award,’” Costello wrote.
“I didn’t get much further with that statement either. I listened carefully to my mother’s argument that if something is deserved then one must be gracious in acceptance.”
Costello went on to explain that his two grandfathers were both soldiers who were injured during wartime: His maternal grandfather spent three years in a P.O.W. camp during World War II while his paternal grandfather, a bugler, was “Missing, Presumed Dead” in imperial India before he was found in a military hospital and sent home.
“I can’t say that the future and fortunes offered to such men upon their return home were anything more than an insult to add to their physical, mental and spiritual injuries. You had to make your own luck then but that’s the way it’s been ever since,” Costello said.
“One hundred years have passed and the British Empire doesn’t exist any more but our family is still thriving and playing music. So, it is in memory of those two British Army soldiers and because my Mam told me to do it, that I can proudly accept this award.”
Other artists named to the Queen’s Birthday Honours List include rapper M.I.A., who received an M.B.E. – Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – for services to music, while Undertones singer Fergal Sharkey also received an O.B.E.
In late December, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason was awarded Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E) for his services to music.
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