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- Posted on Dec 15th 2010 11:00AM by James Sullivan
Though Perkins' songs often address the unique circumstances of his life -- both the privilege of his lineage and the tragedy of his losses -- the superb songwriter has taken pains to avoid being identified as the "son of so-and-so" or "survivor of sad story," as he once said. Nevertheless, the facts are the facts.
Perkins is the son of the late Anthony Perkins, the Tony Award-winning actor who was best known for his role as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho.' Anthony Perkins died in 1992 of complications from AIDS. Nine years later, Elvis' mother, the photographer Berry Berenson, was killed on American Airlines Flight 11 in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Elvis Perkins' debut album, 'Ash Wednesday' (2007), was so named because his mother died on a Tuesday; the following day, as he has said -- the ninth anniversary of his father's death -- he was left with only ash. "The songs are their grandchildren they didn't get to meet," he told NPR upon the release of his band's 2009 album 'Elvis Perkins in Dearland.' "They strike me as offspring from time to time, and some of them on the new album sort of stare back at me a little funny."
The singer's ancestry is impressive. His father's family tree reaches back to the Mayflower; his maternal great-grandmother was the Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and the family included countesses, actresses and models. But it was royalty of another sort that gave Elvis his first taste of sadness: His given name, borrowed from the King of Rock 'n' Roll, made the young Perkins an object of teasing.
"I developed an apprehension of dealing with people," he once said, "because there was no way of getting off on the right foot."
The same cannot be said for his recording career. Both of Perkins' albums have been critical and fan favorites. Widely noted was the fact that 'Elvis Perkins in Dearland' turned the singer's melancholy into joy, with arrangements like a celebratory Salvation Army band. If music can be a salvation, Perkins is a prime example.