This post was originally inspired in July 2012 when Billboard magazine put up a post on their website about musicians’ real names. The link annoyingly forces one to scroll through 150 pics to see the full list, so I’ve redone it here and added more names. In November 2013, I updated the list and am reposting it, inspired by Matthew Wilkening’s “Stage Name Origins” article at UltimateClassicRock.com.
First, a few thoughts. Some music stars might have had a tough go with their original names. How far would George Michael have gone with the unwieldy moniker of Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou? Queen’s Freddie Mercury would have spent a career explaining how to pronounce Farrokh Bulsara. Certainly Stevland Judkins doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly as Stevie Wonder. Would the rap world have taken Queen Latifah seriously as Dana Owens?
Still, I question why some of these stars changed their names. Come on, Marc Anthony. Didn’t you think Marco Muniz had a ring to it? Frankly, I like the name Cameron Thomaz just fine, Wiz Khalifa. And when you’ve got a great first name like Terius or Jayceon, why not work with that? I’m looking at you The-Dream and The Game.
There are also stars who understandably thought their given name wasn’t catchy enough, but probably should have searched a little longer for a better stage name. Admittedly, if my name were Wouter De Backer, I’d want something catchier, too – although I’m not sure Gotye is the best answer. And as for you, Adam Wiles, I get it. You wanted something that popped, that zinged, that people wouldn’t forget – so you went with Calvin Harris?? Keep trying.
Some stars’ names sound made up, but if you check their birth certificates, Madonna, Prince, and Ke$ha (sans dollar sign) really are their names. My favorite, though, is Neil Diamond. Guess what his real name is? Neil Diamond. Anyway, here’s a list of what I have gathered thus far. Stage names are listed first (alphabetically) followed by given names. Parentheses indicate a group with which the musician is closely identified.
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, image from cnn.com
Anthony Dominick Benedetto, image from Wikimedia.org
Paul Hewson, image from bonoonline.com
David Robert Hayward Stenton Jones, image from telegraph.co.uk
Virginia Patterson Hensley, image from patsymuseum.com
Vincent Damon Furnier, image from arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com
Robert Allen Zimmerman, image from judithpordon.tripod.com
Marshall Bruce Mathers III, image from npr.org
Kenneth Gorelick, image from jazzchill.blogspot.com
Eleanora Fagan Gough, image from worldofwonder.net
Reginald Kenneth Dwight, image from abcnews.com
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, image from thefactsite.com
Władziu Valentino Liberace, image from telegraph.co.uk
Peter Gene Hernandez, image from nme.com
Farrokh Bulsara, image from theguardian.com
Christopher Wallace, image from latimes.com
Cecil Ingram Connor III, image from theworldinapapercup.com
Sean John Combs, pick a name already and stick with it! Image from newsday.com.
Dana Elaine Owens, image from thelavalizard.com
Robyn Fenty, image from thetimes.co.uk
Stanley Harvey Eisen and Chaim Klein Weitz, image from johnjsimpson.wordpress.com
Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, image from npr.org
Eileen Regina Edwards, image from inmagazine.ca
Edward Louis Severson III, image from perthnow.com.au
McKinley Morganfield, image from jango.com
Stevland Hardaway Judkins, image from nostalgie.fr
Resources and Related Links:
- Billboard.com: 150 Pop Stars Real Names by Billboard Staff (12 July 2012)
- Billboard.com: Pop Stars’ Real Names by Billboard Staff (26 June 2014)
- Classicbands.com: The Stars’ Real Names
- DefinitiveDose.com: The Hilarious True Identities of Your Favorite Musicians by Ben Pogany
- DigitalDreamDoor.com: Music Stars Real Names edited by Lew (20 April 2012)
- NameNerds.com: Stage Names
- UltimateClassicRock.com: Stage Name Origins by Matthew Wilkening