As Kanye West legally changes his name to “Ye”, here are 12 more musical acts that rocked their nicknames
12 Katy Hudson / Katy Perry Many contemporary pop giants adopted pen names before their first bursts of fame, including Lady Gaga (Stefani Germanotta) and Lana Del Rey (Elizabeth Grant). Katy Perry was well advanced in her career before deciding to drop her birth surname, Hudson, and take her mother’s maiden name. She released an album under the name Katy Hudson – an unsuccessful Christian pop album – so the name change helped signal the start of a new career, as well as tons of sales.
11 Reginald Dwight / Elton John
In 1967, two young Englishmen responded to an NME ad looking for songwriters. One was Bernie Taupin; the other, Reginald Dwight. The record label manager who placed the ad thought they would work well together and so started one of the big songwriting partnerships. The first was a talented lyricist, the second a superb singer – but the name sucked. After six months, the young Reg started using Elton John as a tribute to two members of one of his former bands, Elton Dean and Long John Baldry. It wasn’t until 1972, when he was already a superstar, that he legally changed his name.
10 Lynche / Lankum
Several Irish musicians had to change their name or, more precisely, their group name. The Frames were known in the United States as The Frames DC (the Dublin City initials distinguishing Glen Hansard et al from an American band). This is also the reason why Fontaines DC has these initials at the end. But the most significant name change in recent times has been with the Dublin group that helped reshape commerce for the 21st century. The quartet led by Radie Peat was known as Lynched in its first incarnation, but fears over the word’s connotations in racially divided past America forced a name change to Lankum.
9 Dixie Chicks / The Chicks
Country band Lady Antebellum also changed their name to Lady A because “antebellum” has ties to the pre-Civil War era of slavery. Dixie Chicks also dropped the first word of his name last year during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. Dixie is a reference to the South of the Confederate era and in recent times has come to glorify many unsavory aspects of the region’s history.
8 Peter Hernandez / Bruno Mars
Before becoming an R&B superstar and household name through collaborations with Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars was a man behind the scenes. From a young age, he demonstrated a gift as a songwriter of distinction and wrote hits for Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke. But he soon realized that his last name held him back – he didn’t just want to write songs with Latin overtones. “I didn’t want to be stereotypical. He adopted his childhood nickname, Bruno, with a place that – naff alert – was out of this world.
7 Sinéad O’Connor / Shuhada Sadaqat
The Dubliner is one of this country’s great musical exports and she has been widely acclaimed for her memoir, Rememberings, which was published earlier this year. Although she is known to most of us affectionately and mononymously as Sinéad, her name is Shuhada Sadaqat since her conversion to Islam in 2018. “I prefer my Islamic name and I think I will do so. change the legal name by poll act soon, ”she wrote in her Sunday Independent column.
6 Terence Trent D’Arby / Sananda Maitreya
The New Yorker was everywhere in the late 1980s – his heartwarming ballad seemed unmissable. If he seems to have disappeared a long time ago, it may be because he has been known as Sananda Maitreya since 2001. “Terence Trent D’Arby was dead,” he explained to the time. “He watched his suffering as he died a noble death. After intense pain, I meditated for a new spirit, a new will, a new identity. He also said that the idea of changing his name stemmed from a series of dreams he had in 1995 …
5 Puff Daddy / P Diddy / Love
More, arguably, than any other artist, Sean Combs was at the forefront of hip-hop’s transition from genre to mainstream culture. In 2021 he is more of a tycoon than a musician and now he wants to be known as “Love”. In an Instagram post, he shared that he had legally changed his name to Sean Love Combs. “Welcome to the Age of Love!” he wrote. He’s a man with many names – from Puffy to Puff Daddy, then to P Diddy, then to old Diddy. Another of his names, Sean John, is also a longtime streetwear brand that has swelled its coffers for over 20 years.
4 Snoop Doggy Dogg / Snoop Dogg / Snoop Lion
There was something cartoonish about the name when Snoop Doggy Dogg – real name Calvin Broadus Jr – first appeared. Dropping the Doggy Party was one of the rapper’s and entrepreneur’s wisest career moves, though two of his first and best albums, Doggystyle and Tha Doggfather, were released under the original moniker. He briefly performed with other variations including Snoop Rock, Snoopzilla, and Snoop Lion. He now appears to be called Snoop Dogg again.
3 Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam
The Londoner came of age in the singer-songwriter boom of the early 1970s, but a conversion to Islam later in the decade also led to a new name. Yusuf Islam moved away from the pop world completely for almost 20 years, but returned in the mid-1990s under his new name. There have been several albums, but none have regained the tremendous sales they once enjoyed.
Video of the day
2 Prince / Artist formerly known as Prince / ‘Love Symbol’
Prince Rogers Nelson took his name in dislike in 1991. In the midst of a dispute with his record company, he decided to create a new symbol to replace his name – a logo made up of genre pictograms crushed together. “It is an unpronounceable symbol”, he noted at the time, “whose meaning has not been identified”. Even the most ardent disciple of the Prince would find it difficult to reproduce it without the so-called “symbol of love” being presented before him. For a while he became known as the artist formerly known as the prince – but it didn’t last long.
1 Davy Jones / David Bowie
When young David Jones took his first steps in pop stardom, he decided to play with his first name: Davy didn’t look so formal. The only problem, as he soon found out, was that there was another, much more famous Davy Jones, the leader of the Monkees. Back to the drawing board. Inspiration came from the Bowie Army Knife – and, thus, one of pop’s greats was born. And yet, all these years later, some fans of a certain vintage still mispronounce it “bough-ee”. There is nothing to tell them.