Given names pop up an awful lot in popular music. They provide subjects of songs, refer to current or past loves, refer to normal or famous people, or have another use entirely – in Slint’s case, their debut album Tweez has song-titles of various family members of the band – oh, and a dog – simply as they couldn’t think of any other way to title their mostly instrumental songs (or, at least, the lyrics were essentially unimportant). In other cases, ordinary people have been immortalised thanks to their appearance in other people’s songs, such as a certain Marianne (I resisted the temptation to include Leonard Cohen for the third time in the past three months).
/Tuesday Ten/382/Girls Girls Girls/Given Names/Feminine
So a couple of weeks ago, while listening to Fiona Apple’s most recent album – and specifically the exceptional track Jonathan – I mused whether I could really make an interesting Tuesday Ten out of given names. Clearly I should never doubt my army of contributors these days, as they really outdid themselves here. It took me a week to record all the suggestions, which across both masculine and feminine given names, totalled no less than 517 – well beyond 50% more than any other set of suggestions I’ve ever solicited.
As a result, I split this post into two, and this week I’m looking at songs featuring or about feminine given names. There were 314 songs suggested, with eight of those featuring more than one name. There were 183 unique names or variations of names, and 263 unique songs by 195 different artists. Said songs were suggested by ninety people – and Mary had the most unique songs (ten). Needless to say, this meant that some thought went into the final songs selected, and almost all of them (I think nine of the ten) feature the name of someone I know. However, this does not include my wife’s name (I know full well she hates A Bicycle Made for Two), nor any of my partners, mainly as there were no notable songs featuring their names…
What was interesting was that a number of people went for notable people (be that in music or politics, or whatever). In any case, I’ve already done Notable People in Song (/Tuesday Ten/268), and that very much wasn’t the point of this post. I wanted songs named after normal, everyday people (or fictional constructs of people). That one of them turned out to be about a notable – or maybe notorious – person was entirely coincidental, and I didn’t know that until the last minute.
Anyway, thanks to everyone that did suggest songs, and I’ve added some origin information to the names used in the post, as well as where possible, I’ve noted how popular the name was for babies in the year of release in the UK, and in the last recorded period (2018), by using this really useful data source. I may have got some of this wrong, and I’m open to corrections.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Jenny Was A Friend of Mine
/Jennifer is a feminine given name, the Cornish form of Guinevere, adopted into the English language during the 20th century [Wiki]
/2004 (UK) 87th
/2018 (UK) 303rd
The opening song to The Killers’ mega-selling debut (three million in the US, 2.2 million in the UK – and nearly five years in the album charts, and at least one single that has entered the cultural zeitgeist), I didn’t know until researching this post that this song is the concluding part of a “murder trilogy” that tells the wider story of Jennifer (or Jenny, the character is known as both), and also includes my long-time favourite song on this album, the dark, pulsing charge of Midnight Show). This song, though – a long-time live favourite – doesn’t half hark back to the post-punk and eighties-indie-rock that The Killers had clearly been influenced by, but with that awesome bassline driving things forward, and the anthemic chorus, I’m willing to forgive them a whole lot. Here, then, Jennifer is the victim, and the accused is furiously denying that he didn’t do it – something that is never resolved in the song.
Looking at FB, I know at least eight people with various forms of this name, some of whom have been dear friends for years, others I don’t see as much as I’d like, and others I’ve not seen in some time.
/Rhiannon is a major figure in the Mabinogi, the medieval Welsh story collection – and a Welsh feminine given name. [Wiki]
/1975 (UK) unknown
/2018 (UK) 1170th
Fleetwood Mac have appeared just the once before in this series (Little Lies appeared on /206/Lies back in 2014), so let’s redress that a bit, by featuring one of their earlier hits from 1975 – from their second self-titled album, before they became one of the biggest bands in the world thanks to Rumours a couple of years later. Interestingly enough, apparently Stevie Nicks didn’t know about the connection to the Welsh legends that the name originally comes from when she wrote the song, which if true makes this a bit of an astounding bit of luck. Either way, it’s a interesting, memorable song. And oddly enough, I know a few people with variants of this unusual name (at least it’s unusual outside Wales, I would think).
/Kathy’s Song (Come Lie Next To Me)
/Welcome to Earth
/Kathy is a feminine given name. It is a pet form of Katherine, Kathleen and their related forms. They are popular in Christian countries because of their derivation from the name of one of the first Christian saints, Catherine of Alexandria. [Wiki]
/2000 (UK) 1995th
/2018 (UK) none recorded
Intriguingly, this surprising dancefloor hit – admittedly normally in the form of the VNV Nation remix of it, although this version did get a lot of play too – is apparently not a love song in the conventional sense. An unconfirmed comment – so I can’t confirm for sure – suggests that Stefan Groth has admitted that “Kathy”, and that computerised voice, is his computer that he created the song on, even though the lyrics suggest that this epic, sweeping song is something of a plea for forgiveness from a lover who has perhaps committed an infidelity.
I know nine people with the name Kathy, Kath, Katherine or Kat (only including those whose variants of the name begin with K).
/Rio is Portuguese or Spanish for “river” [Wiki]
/1982 (UK) unknown
/2018 (UK) 1393rd
One of two names in the list this week that can be either a male or female given name (and the only in the entire list where I know no-one with the name (edit: er, yes I do, but someone male…), this is the lead track to one of the biggest, brashest albums of the early eighties. A band formed in Birmingham, they quickly aimed higher than the provincial city and this album helped them become megastars, with slick videos filmed in the tropics, and the band looking cool as all hell in linen suits. The name in this title track is presumably to sound as exotic as possible – befitting the escapism of the album – and it’s certainly a hell of an opener to such a slick album…
Also of note – this is the first time, remarkably, that I’ve included an original Duran Duran song in this series, while the exceptional Joanne Joanne are an all-female tribute band (and well worth seeing if they come to your town), and the one song they don’t do? Rio.
/Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike
/Sally is an English language feminine given name. The name originated as a pet name for Sarah, but has since become used independently. It is also a nickname for Salome, which is especially popular in Georgia. The name peaked in popularity in the U.S. in 1939, when it was ranked 52nd in popularity, but has since become an uncommon name. [Wiki]
/2005 (UK) 438th
/2018 (UK) 1887th
The Sally here is a character that features in two songs from this fabulous, raucous album (the other is Avenue B, and perhaps here is a stand-in for Eugene Hütz himself. His family left Ukraine in the aftermath of Chernobyl, and, perhaps, he started something of a small-scale “cultural revolution” in his chaotic club-nights and multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural band that cares less about who you are, than what you do, and what you shall do is have a hell of a time. We always do at every Gogol Bordello live show, as they remain one of the greatest live bands on earth.
I have three friends with this name, and my aunt has a derivative spelling of it.
/Rosemary is a feminine given name, a combination of the names Rose and Mary. It can also be used in reference to the herb named rosemary. Rosemary has been in steady use in the United States and has ranked among the top 1,000 for 110 years. It was ranked as the 754th most popular name for American girls born in 2008. Its greatest period of popularity in the United States was between 1925 and 1950, when it was ranked among the top 150 names for girls. Rosemarie is another variant, and Romy is a German nickname for the name. [Wiki]
/2005 (UK) 500th
/2018 (UK) 596th
The only song this week where the name is not in the title, it instead is the first word sung in it, in one of Interpol’s greatest, most dramatic songs, and about, as it turns out, a pretty grim subject. The song seems quite restrained and sparse to begin with, before it suddenly explodes into an extraordinary, bleak chorus from Paul Banks. That grim subject? It is thought that the song is commenting upon the Fred and Rosemary West case (not that Paul Banks has ever confirmed it), and the video is rather creepy, too, with a puppet in the aftermath of a car accident.
I only know directly two people with variants of this name (although both are Rosie rather than Rose).
/Nikki is a given name. It is commonly a nickname for Nikolina, Nicole, Nicola, Nicholas or Veronica. The given name Nicole is of Greek origin and means “victory of the people”. It has evolved into a French feminine derivative of the masculine given name Nicolas. [Wiki] [
/1984 (UK) Unknown
/2018 (UK) 2674th
A song released when Prince was at the peak of his considerable powers, as Purple Rain the film and album made him the star he’d always dreamed about being (sure, 1999 was good, but this was on another level entirely, a fact only reinforced by listening to the whole album for the first time in a while at the weekend), it also has it’s own notoriety. This sleazy, risqué song was never a single (probably for the best, actually), but even so, many people were listening, and it all-but-directly led to the Parental Advisory stickers that were on just about anything worth buying within a few years, as clearly none of us were capable of working out for ourselves what we should be listening to.
The second of the given names looked at this week that can be either in masculine or feminine forms, and I know people with this name in both forms.
/The Sisters of Mercy
/Some Girls Wander By Mistake
/Alice is a feminine given name used primarily in English and French. It is a form of the Old French name Alis (older Alais), short form of Adelais, which is derivation from the Germanic name Adalhaidis (see Adelaide), from the Proto-Germanic words *aþala-, meaning “noble” and *haidu-, meaning “appearance; kind” (compare German Adel “nobility”, edel “noble”, nominalizing suffix -heit “-hood”), hence “of noble character or rank, of nobility”. Alaïs is the Old French form of the name; Alys of Vexin was also known as Alaïs. [Wiki]
/1981 (UK) 336th
/2018 (UK) 24th
One of the earliest, and best-loved, Sisters tracks, this, it is nearly forty years old and frankly retains an immense staying power – even still being in Sisters live sets to this day. There’s a good reason for this – it has a mighty charge of momentum, not to mention an anthemic hook and probably has most of the sonic tricks that Von and the band have relied on ever since. The Heartland forum offers an intriguing view on what the song is about “I always thought the song was about escapism, and that…Von was showing the similarities between religion and drugs“. Not an uncommon subject for him to dig into, in his songs, either…
A common name in the Lancastrian side of my family – I’ve found at least three while researching my family tree, and it’s also the middle name of my half-sister – I know a couple of people with the name, as well as more with various derivatives.
/A Perfect Circle
/Mer de Noms
/Judith is a feminine given name derived from the Hebrew name יְהוּדִית or Yehudit, meaning “woman of Judea”. Judith appeared in the Old Testament as one of Esau’s wives, while the deuterocanonical Book of Judith deals with a different Judith. It is in common usage in English, French, German, many Scandinavian languages, Dutch, and Hebrew. [Wiki]
/2000 (UK) 1095th
/2018 (UK) 1788th
Another song with religious connotations is one of the earliest singles from A Perfect Circle, a band that must be one of the most popular side-projects ever (certainly in alternative circles, anyway). Their first album was a slick, electronically-enhanced alt-rock album that had a distinctive sound even without considering Maynard James Keenan’s voice. Around this time and in the years to follow, Keenan wrote quite a bit about his stricken mother, and this song is apparently a reaction to her blind faith in religion – her faith paradoxically only got stronger when she was paralysed by a stroke. Keenan’s seething fury at the injustice and the belief in a higher power that has done nothing is palable through every word he sings.
I only know two Judiths, as far as I can tell…
/Eloise is the english form of the modern french name Éloïse (pronounced ay-lo-eez) which comes from the old french name Héloïse. The name Héloïse is thought to come from the Germanic name Helewidis (composed of the elements heil “hale, healthy” and wid “wide”.) [Source]
/1986 (UK) this name all but disappeared before returning to use recently
/2018 (UK) 107th
The only name here where I’ve not met the person with that name, but I do know of someone with it. Mainly because she is the daughter of some old friends, and the only offspring of any of my friends, to my knowledge, to be named after the character of a beloved song (another friend named their son after one of their favourite musical artists, but that’s different). I never knew that this song was actually a cover of a Barry Ryan song of 1968, but then, I must confess, that aside from New Rose, I’ve never particularly cared for The Damned, but I’m well aware that there are great number of my friends who love them.
Next week, I move onto masculine given names.