PORTLAND – Monday night I saw Elvis Perkins at the Doug Fir lounge. Not a music reviewer, I will spare you my impressions – except that I enjoyed the show.
Just now I re-read the Wikipedia story on Mr. Perkins. I was reminded some of us think we have dramatic family history. And then there are those who do.
Perkins is the son of actor Anthony Perkins and photographer Berry Berenson. He was raised in Los Angeles, California, and New York City with his older brother, actor Oz Perkins. Perkins is a great-grandson of the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who was a great-niece of Giovanni Schiaparelli, the Italian astronomer who believed he had discovered the supposed canals of Mars, and a nephew of the actress Marisa Berenson, Berry’s sister. His paternal grandfather Osgood Perkins, was also an actor. His maternal great-grandfather was Count Wilhelm de Wendt de Kerlor, a theosophist and psychic medium. His mother was a great-grandniece of art expert Bernard Berenson (1865–1959), whose sister Senda (1868–1954) was an athlete and educator and one of the first two women elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Perkins attended Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, after graduating from high school at the Harvard-Westlake School in 1994.
Perkins’ father was an Elvis Presley fan and thus named his son Elvis. Perkins took to music at an early age, briefly learning the saxophone before picking up the guitar in high school and taking lessons with Prescott Niles, one-time bassist for The Knack. While he played in rock bands, Perkins developed an interest in the classical guitar, and began to compose music in both idioms. He also wrote poetry, and that gradually morphed into lyrics. After a short stint at college, he began to cultivate the idiosyncratic, highly personalized style that distinguishes Ash Wednesday.
“It’s been a long journey, long in the coming,” Perkins admits, when he discusses the album, and it took a serious detour on September 11, 2001, when his mother, a passenger on the ill-fated American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles, perished in the attack on New York City’s twin towers a day before the ninth anniversary of his father’s death. Ash Wednesdaywas shaped in part by that event and its aftermath.
Berry Berenson was the younger daughter of Robert L. Berenson, an American diplomat turned shipping executive, who was of Lithuanian Jewish descent; his mother’s family’s original surname was Valvrojenski.
–Wikipedia, on Elvis Perkins