Friends of mine are expecting baby #3. After two nicely-named daughters, the dad told me, “If it’s a boy, we’re pretty set. But if it’s a girl? I’ll have to start going through my favorite song titles.”
Happily, there’s no shortage of great names for girls from popular songs.
Unlike television and movie characters, there’s not always a link between the song’s release date and the name’s heyday.
Some names are already wildly popular when the song is written. Remember Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309” from 1981? It was only a matter of time until someone scored a hit with the heard-everywhere Jenny in the lyrics.
Other names stick around long enough for more than one single.
The Beatles first crooned Michelle, ma belle … back in 1965, when the name ranked #18 in the US. By the time Axl Rose sang about his hard-luck “My Michelle” on Appetite for Destruction, 24 years had passed – but Michelle was still a Top 25 name in the US.
And some names can’t be saved, no matter how memorable their songs.
It’s hard to imagine even the biggest Ramones fan naming her daughter Sheena in 2014. The same is true for Sheila, Sherrie, Windy, Billie Jean, Peggy Sue, and Susie Q. Great songs, yes – but it isn’t the moment for their names.
The good news? From the 1960s to today, there are dozens of names that do wear well, with memorable songs to inspire a daughter’s name.
Eleanor – The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” wasn’t a happy figure. But the name – classic, regal, literary – is a favorite for parents in recent years. Eleanor is the 9th most popular name on Nameberry, and ranked #106 in the US in 2013.
Lucy – Lucy ranks #14 on Nameberry, and #66 in the US. And why not? Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds isn’t just a Beatles hit, it could inspire an entire nursery theme. From Lucille Ball to Peanuts, there’s no shortage of other reasons to love this simple-but-complete choice.
Genevieve – Country music duo Sugarland recorded a song with this title in 2008. It wasn’t a hit – in fact, “Genevieve” wasn’t even a single. But the album, Love on the Inside, was a smash. Doubtless a few parents have been inspired by this song. Genevieve is a Nameberry favorite, coming in at #15. The name is #219 in the US.
Alice – Storybook Alice is huge in Sweden, big in the UK, and #20 on Nameberry. This makes her US ranking of #107 almost chilly in comparison. Name your daughter Alice in 2014 and you can sing her Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 war protest song, “Alice’s Restaurant.” Or, for a very different vibe, anything by 90s grunge mainstay Alice in Chains.
Caroline – Classic Caroline comes in at #29 on Nameberry and #63 in the US. Neil Diamond has said that a photo of a young Caroline Kennedy and her parents inspired the title of his 1969 single, “Sweet Caroline.” Two bonuses? The lyrics are kid-friendly, making it an easy song to sing to your little Caroline. And, for an 80s spin, The Psychedlic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink” is also about a girl named Caroline – even though Molly Ringwald’s character in the movie was called Andie.
Iris – Remember the Nicolas Cage-Meg Ryan movie City of Angels from 1998? No? Chances are you do know The Goo Goo Dolls’ Grammy-nominated, smash-hit song from the movie, “Iris.” The romantic ballad remains much-played, more than a decade later. This is one song that seems to have directly boosted the name’s popularity. Iris is currently #53 on Nameberry, and #253 in the US.
Ruby – First The Rolling Stones sang good-bye to “Ruby Tuesday.” Then Kenny Rogers pleaded Ruby, “don’t take your love to town.” More recently, there’s the Kaiser Chief’s “Ruby” in 2007 and Rancid’s pop-punk “Ruby Soho” in 2009. The name has climbed the popularity charts, too, reaching #93 in the US and #56 on Nameberry.
Jane – From the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” to Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun,” this classic and ladylike name has a long history in rock and roll. Jane came in at #70 on Nameberry, and #355 in the US.
Lola – The Kinks spelled out L-O-L-A Lola in their hit 1970 single, fifteen years after Damn Yankees gave us “Whatever Lola Wants.” All these years later, Lola has gone from temptress to kindergartener. The name ranks #78 on Nameberry, #214 in the US – and is even more popular in the UK and Spain.
Sadie – There was no real-life Sadie to inspire the Beatles’ “Sexy Sadie,” but in 2007’s Beatles-inspired film, “Across the Universe,” Sadie became a character name. Reality series Duck Dynasty gets credit for boosting Sadie to #50 in the US. Sadie ranks #80 on Nameberry. This is the third Beatles-inspired entry, and that’s without including Lizzie, Rita, Prudence, or Martha, My Dear.
Lily – The Who’s “Pictures of Lily” topped the British charts back in 1967, but in the song we learn that lovely Lily actually lived in the early twentieth century. That makes Lily a vintage revival having a good moment in 2014. Lily is big in the UK, currently ranks #27 in the US and #82 on Nameberry. From Lillian to Lilianna, variants abound, so Lily may feel even more popular than those numbers suggest.
Cecilia – Simon and Garfunkel scored a hit in the US with “Cecilia” in 1970. A second musical reference for the name? Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians. As of 2013, Cecilia ranked #111 on Nameberry, and #223 in the US.
Elise – The Cure’s “A Letter to Elise” was released in 1992, but it had been performed a few months earlier on MTV’s acoustic show Unplugged. The name is popular in the Netherlands, Sweden, and Scotland, as well as charting at #139 on Nameberry and #159 in the US.
Juniper – A pair of sisters inspired two names on this list. Back in the 1960s, Jenny Boyd was a sometime-model who was romantically involved with singer Donovan. Donovan’s single “Jennifer Juniper” was inspired by Miss Boyd – who was actually born Helen. Juniper ranks #173 on Nameberry, and #648 in the US.
Layla – Everyone knows the Derek and the Dominos song, with that unforgettable guitar solo. The song was originally written for Eric Clapton’s future wife, Pattie Boyd – the sister of Jenny, mentioned above. The title came from a traditional Persian Romeo and Juliet story, Layla and Manjun. Layla is #187 on Nameberry, and #30 in the US.
Maggie – Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” is a standard, but Maggie isn’t a wildly popular given name. In the US, Maggie charts at #231. On Nameberry, Maggie is a slightly less popular #270. Look at Maggie’s usual formal form Margaret, though, and things change. Margaret is #181 in the US – and #84 on Nameberry.
Veronica – Elvis Costello’s 1989 single was inspired by a real-life woman: Costello’s aging grandmother. Veronica was popular in the 1970s and 80s. (Remember Winona Ryder’s character in 1988’s dark comedy Heathers?) Today she still feels a little bit offbeat, but surprisingly classic, too. Veronica currently ranks #314 on Nameberry and #317 in the US.
Valerie – Everyone from Steve Winwood to Amy Winehouse, Material Issue to the Monkees has borrowed this name for their song titles. The Monkees spelled it “Valleri,” but most stick with the traditional spelling, which ranks #169 in the US and #350 on Nameberry.
Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac’s 1976 “Rhiannon” remains a favorite. In live performances, singer Stevie Nicks claimed that it was a song about an old Welsh witch. Maybe so, but in Welsh myth, Rhiannon is a fertility goddess, as well as a princess. It’s definitely a name made popular by its song. Today Rhiannon ranks #424 on Nameberry, but has left the US Top 1000.
Jolene – Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” regularly makes lists of all-time greatest songs. As a name, Jolene’s heyday was the 1970s, shortly after the song’s release. But Jolene has seen the tiniest bit of a resurgence in recent years, and currently ranks #1,316 on Nameberry, and #926 in the US.
What are your favorite names from songs? Are there any others that should be on this list?