Why do composers go by their last names? Beethoven, Chopin, Prokofiev, Copeland, Gershwin, Bach, Mahler. Who even knows their first names? Ok, I do, for most of them anyway but I do get the Gershwins mixed up – was it Ira or George?
Rock Stars go by nicknames. Sting. I keep forgetting his real name – Gordon something. And the Edge, the quiet U2 guitarist with a big rolling melodic sound has an actual name but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what it is without googling it and who has time for that? And then there’s U2’s band leader Bono Vox, who goes by Bono which might actually be his name. Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish is another one off the top of my head. That can’t possibly be his real name. And of course there’s Iggy Pop, whose real name is Jim I believe.
Like the composers, some do go by their last names – Morrissey and Daughtry, not Roger, but Chris, former American Idol contestant, (a show I’ve never watched) who goes by his band’s name, Daughtry. John Coltrane was generally known as Coltrane.
Brazilian Soccer or futbol players often go by one name, first, last or nick – Pele, Ronaldo, Kaka, Marta and the like. In jazz, Miles Davis was simply Miles. Duke Ellington the Duke and Count Basie the Count. In folk music, Dylan and Donovan come to mind. The old guys in American football players had nicknames, but those didn’t end up on their jerseys – Mean Joe Greene, LT, Broadway Joe, Johnny U and so on. Rappers are famous for this too: Jay Z, LL Cool J, 2Pac, Biggie, 50 cent. And some folks have the same first and last name. Jose Jose. Victor Victor. And others have first and last names that are interchangeable – Dean Martin, George Harrison, or two first names – Steven Tyler and Ricky Martin.
When I was in fourth grade, this kid, Hank Lee, gave everybody nicknames. Mine was Robbie del Hobbie. I was intrigued by the word play and took it upon myself to be the giver of nicknames when Hank Lee moved away in the 5th grade. I was kind of small and easy prey for bullies so giving nicknames and running fast were my weapons that earned me respect and quite a few nicknames of my own. Rib, Hib, Ribbie, Wribbie (British spelling), Orb – I won a spot on my high school student council with a campaign of brightly colored sticker dots. Nicknames do have their advantages, though I have yet to land a multi-billion dollar record deal.