How Famous Singers Got Their Names

atkins-bookshelf-musicTo succeed in music, you must have talent, of course, but it also helps to have the right look and the right name. A number of singers have adopted a single word as their stage name (known as a mononym), based on their first name or nickname (you’ll know why when you read their real names — a real mouthful). Some names are an homage to a notable person, a planet, or even the result of auto fill (or auto correct), the bane of the digital age.

Born: Adele Laurie Blue Adkins. She goes by her first name.

David Bowie
Born: David Robert Jones. The singer started out as Davy (or Davie) Jones but was often confused with Davy Jones of The Monkees. The singer adopted the surname of James Bowie (1796-1836), the famous American frontiersman, whom he admired; he was also a fan of the Bowie knife (although there is some debate whether James Bowie actually invented the Bowie knife).

Miley Cyrus
Born Destiny Hope Cyrus. She was a happy child, always smiling; so her parents called her “smiley” which morphed to Miley.

Born Marshall Bruce Mathers III. In high school, Eminem began rapping with a friend, Mike Ruby, and they called themselves M&M. His name is phonetic spelling of the initials.

Born: Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong. She goes by her first name.

Lady Gaga: Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
Rob Fusari, a music producer that Gaga was dating in 2006, came up with the name Radio Ga Ga, after the Queen song. Fusari sent a text to Gaga, but the auto fill app on his phone changed “Radio” to “Lady” (go figure). When Gaga received the text she immediately recognized her new moniker: Lady Gaga.

Elton John
Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight. The musician chose a name to honor Bluesology (an R&B band that John formed in the early 1960s) musicians Elton Dean and Long John Baldry.

Born Madonna Louise Ciccone. She goes by her first name.

Bruno Mars
Born Peter Gene Hernandez. When he first moved to Los Angeles at 17, the singer did not want to be typecast as another Latino artist. He adopted his childhood nickname, Bruno, given to him by his father who believed that the singer resembled Bruno Sammartino, a famous professional wrestler. He selected “Mars” as a surname because he wanted a name with pizzazz and “a lot of girls say I’m out of this world.”

Freddie Mercury
Born Farrokh Bulsara. When he was eight years old, he adopted the name “Freddie” while at a boarding school in India because his classmates could not pronounce his name. In early 1970, soon after forming the band “Queen”, the singer changed his last name to Mercury. Mercury, his actual star sign, appealed to the singer for several reasons. In Roman mythology, Mercury represents eloquence, communication, and trickery (Freddie had a wicked sense of humor). And most importantly, his personality was certainly mercurial.

Katy Perry
Born Kathryn Hudson. So as not to be confused with Kate Hudson, she adopted her mother’s maiden name, Perry.

Alecia Beth Moore Hart. Pink was her nickname because as a young girl, she was embarrassed easily, turning a bright pink.

Born Prince Rogers Nelson. He goes by his first name, although for a brief time (1993 to 2000) he changed his name to the Love Symbol (a combination of the traditional symbols for male and female, known as “Love Symbol No. 2”). Since the symbol had no pronunciation, the press referred to Prince as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” (or the shorter “TAFKAP”), or “The Artist.”

Seal: Born Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel. He goes by his first name.

Cat Stevens
Born Steven Demetre Georgiou. In the mid 1960s his girlfriend suggested the name “Cat” because she thought he had the eyes of a cat. He used “Cat” along with a variation of his first name. In 1977, Stevens adopted the name Yusuf Islam

Sting: Born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner. Nicknamed sting by Gordon Solomon, bandleader of the Phoenix Jazzmen, when Sumner performed with them wearing a black and yellow sweater with hooped stripes, looking like a bee.

Read related posts: How Rock Bands Got Their Names
Origins of the Beatles Name
The Dark Side of the Moon Turns 40
Best Books for Music Lovers
How Many Music Genres Exist?

For further reading: (various biographies),

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