The Name Game

It doesn’t happen very often when an artist in the music industry is forced to change his stage name for legal reasons.  Santigold (“Disparate Youth,” “The Keepers”) changed her stage name in 2009 from Santogold lest she be sued by the maker of Santo Gold jewelry.  One would think her old name should be fine as long as she doesn’t intend to go into the jewelry business.  In 2013, Say Lou Lou (“Julian”) announced on Facebook that for trademark reason the name Saint Lou Lou would be no more.  The name change occurred before the release of the Australian-Swedish sister duo’s debut album.

After scoring a top 10 single and a top 10 album, The Lumineers will probably not give up the band’s name without a fight.  We only bring this up because there’s a dental product with the same name.

What's in a Name?

For rocker John Mellencamp, the answer is plenty.  He hated his stage name so much he reclaimed his surname in 1983 after scoring two top 10 hits, including the No. 1 smash “Jack & Diane.”  We submit David Bowie’s manager was right to give Mellencamp the name “John Cougar” in the late 1970s (that name wouldn’t work as well today because “cougar” has taken on a new meaning).

When Italian DJ Roberto Milani (real name:  Roberto Concina) opted to use the name “Robert Miles” for the song “Children,” that name change probably helped make it a hit in English-speaking countries in 1996.  More recently, Romanian producer Eduard Marian Ilie wisely went with “Edward Maya,” an easy name to pronounce for English- and Spanish-speaking countries, and the rest is history.

Natalie Bassingthwaighte (“Alive,” “Someday Soon”), the soap star and lead vocalist of Rogue Traders (“Voodoo Child,” “What You’re On”), should do fine in her native Australia.  But her long name may be too unwieldy for other markets.  Another Australian TV actress, Natalie Imbruglia, established her international status in 1997 with “Torn” despite a slightly challenging name.

Former Swedish “Idol” contestant Mans Zelmerlow (“Cara Mia,” “Hope & Glory”) likely used his birth name from day one, an unfortunate choice for North America and most of Europe.  The 2010 American version of “Idol” finally gave us some names that do not exactly roll off the tongue:  Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox.  So before “Idol” hopefuls audition for the show, they might want to think about using a stage name.

We can debate whether Avicii’s name has helped his career, but we can all agree his stage name definitely has more flair than his birth name, Tim Bergling.

In the age of Barack Obama, shouldn’t all entertainers use what their parents gave them?  Yes, Barack Obama does sound better than Barry Obama.  But that’s only in hindsight and Obama is a special case.  His road to the White House would have been easier if his name was, well, anything but Barack Obama.  To break into show business, one should pick a consumer-friendly name—and watch out for Internet search engines.  That’s why Jason Derulo decided to simplify the spelling of Desrouleaux (the French would call it criminal).

What’s Elton John’s real name?  Reginald Dwight.  John Denver was born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.  Now about Kristine Elezaj and Zoe Badwi….

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