What is in a name? Everything, at least in the 1950’s and early 60’s! Our name branded us. Whether it was a nickname, our given name or the use of our middle name. The first official act of parental power was giving a name to the baby.
The baby naming business was large in the 1950’s and early 60’s with the baby booming generation. A child could not prosper without a name that resonated. Did the child become successful because or in spite of the name?
Does the name we give our child matter? If we can use it to rhyme or harmonize will it matter? We were and are known by our name. And, they sang songs about it. At least they did back then. Our names, or at least the names of girls were immortalized forever. We all knew “Diana” because of Paul Anka, “Donna” because of Ritchie Valens and “Ruby” because of Dion. Neil Sedaka’s “Oh, Carol” was for every Carol we knew. And there were plenty of names to pick from. So why the fascination with names?
Girl’s names dominated the charts. Doo Wop songs were created that became an anthem for the music with songs like “Gloria” by the Cadillacs, Vito and the Salutations and the Passions. It has been said that you were not a Doo Wop group of any magnitude unless you could match Earl Carroll (lead singer of the Cadillacs) and his use of falsetto and harmony. “Florence,” by the Paragons used all falsetto as a way of marking their turf on the name.
Names of actors and actresses were adopted by our parents from movies and movie stars, remaining a part of the name game for decades. Sandra came from Sandra Dee, Maria from West Side Story, Natalie from Natalie Wood, “Connie” from Connie Francis and “Brenda” from Brenda Lee.
The origin of names also came from the Bible, with names like “Mary” being the most popular as a name and as a song title. We also reach back in history for names of an ancestor such as “Phoebe,” “Grace,” or “Kathryn”.
There were only a handful of boy’s names that were paid tribute in song. “Norman” by Sue Thompson, “Teddy” by Connie Francis, a host of “Johnny” songs and of course, “Danny Boy” by Conway Twitty and other artists, including Elvis. A tribute to “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore,” by the Highwaymen also topped the charts. But it was to be the guys pining for their girls that resonated with everyone.
But the taste of parents would change over the years. A variety of motives are at work now to be unique, distinctive, trendy or even more traditional. In the space of ten years the names would become more diverse and the musical salute to a name would ultimately give way to gender neutral names or names from movies such as “Madison” from “Splash” or from popular athletes. Names have become overexposed and utilized in a number of combinations, spellings and pronunciations. Parental labeling signals an expectation for their child. Does a name really make a difference? Yes, to the lyricists and writers of today’s music they will have a much more difficult time in saluting and honoring our loved one.