Category: musical baby names
“Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.”
When your name is crooned by Eric Clapton, it takes on a whole new level of cool. Undoubtedly chosen for its lyrical, laid-back, la la la sound, Layla also sports an intriguing meaning that suits the song’s bluesy quality: “ night” in Arabic. Practically unknown before the song’s release, Layla first hit the U.S. Top 1000 in 1972, when Clapton’s rock ballad achieved chart success. There, it hovered for awhile, fell off the charts again, and then emerged anew upon the release of Layla’s Unplugged version in 1992, when it began a steady climb to baby name stardom. Today, Layla rests at an unquestionably popular Number 37, and is sure to climb even higher, given all its attractive characteristics.
Though it is probable that not all parents of little Laylas were inspired by the song, it is sure to have influenced at least some, and for those willing to dig a bit deeper into rock history for inspiration, past the dated “Roxanne” (The Police) and “Barbara Ann” (The Beach Boys), there are a number of likely gems á la Layla, just waiting to be discovered. While that list does tend to favor the girls, who tend to be more popular subjects of love songs than men, if one looks past the songs and toward the artists themselves, a whole treasure trove of possibilities can be found, and not all of them as far out as one would think.
Here are my favorite rock ‘n’ roll baby names for boys and girls, with the songs and artists referenced. (The Beatles, in particular, seem to have had their finger on the baby naming pulse!) Keep in mind that these lists are not comprehensive, but, rather, reflect those names that seem particularly relevant to the modern day crowd, have an intriguing sound, or simply have that rockin’ edge.
Of course the category of word names encompasses a lot of different types: nature names, color names, virtue names and other nouns (and the line between words and names sometimes blurs).
Which kinds do you and do you not like?
Rock musicians have gotten the rap of being the most extreme baby namers, which certainly is true for some but by no means all. This led me to wonder if their choices bore any relationship to the kind of music they played: would the Dixie Chicks, for example, pick names with a countryish flavor, Atomic Kitten more edgy?
And how about within the groups– were their choices in sync? Since they functioned basically as families on the road, how did their kids’ names work as sibsets? In the examples listed below, you can see certain similarities—such as a Beatles theme running through the Oasis offspring, and several other musical references, including Jagger, Les Paul, Elvis, Madonna, Bebop and even Rock .
It’s not really so surprising that the names of dances would be strikingly rhythmic and melodic, but when I started to look into it, I was somewhat taken aback by the sheer number and variety—and by how many of them could conceivably be seen as baby names.
The following list cuts across time and space, from Italian Renaissance peasant dances and stately minuets to complex international folk dances to Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers to 1960s line dancing to 1980s Brazilian zouk.
ABHIA—a ceremonial dance done by southern Sudan tribal women around a mango tree
ABRAXAS—a serpentine ritual dance of the Greek Gnostics to the deity of that name
ALEMANDER—folk dance performed in Germany and Switzerland
APARINA—a Tahitian dance for 60 men and women sitting in four rows
BARYNYA—a lively Russian folk dance; also the name of several Russian folk dancing ensembles
BOSTON—the original name of the American Waltz, introduced in that city in 1834
BRANSIE—an old French follow-the-leader dance
CALATA—an Italian town dance done in triple time
CARINOSA—Philippine dance of love
CEROC—a simplified version of modern jive dance
CHACONNE—a slow, solemn dance of Spanish or Moorish origin; also a popular social dance in 17-18th century France
CHULA—a traditional dance from Portugal and southern Brazil; also means beautiful in Spanish
The character names to be found in the comical, light operas of Gilbert & Sullivan, for the most part, represent names that Victorian society either found to be fancifully appealing (as in the fairy names from Iolanthe) or absurdly amusing (as in the faux Japanese names from The Mikado).
By comparison, some G&S character names may seem a bit mundane to us. But viewing a rousing performance of The Pirates of Penzance could do much to redeem such names, as one finds oneself charmed by the dutiful and beautiful Mabel, or one cheers the “piratical maid of all work,” Ruth, who is later transformed into a feminist swashbuckler in her own right.
ALINE– a maiden betrothed, from The Sorceror
CASILDA – the Duchess’ daughter, from The Gondoliers
FIAMETTA – an Italian peasant girl, from The Gondoliers