It’s catching on, though.
Unlike many trends, this one works better for boys than for girls. And while many surnames have a New England prep school vibe, rock star choices are rough and tumble, creative, even fierce.
Why not use a legendary musician’s first name? In most cases, they’re surprisingly ordinary – David and John and Phil. Using their given names doesn’t pay homage in quite the same way as borrowing their surnames.
In other cases, their first names are possibilities. Think of Elvis and Ziggy. But both of those feel harder to wear than the singers’ surnames.
To keep this list manageable, I’m sticking strictly to inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There’s no shortage of possibilities well beyond this list.
Rock Star Names in the US Top 100
Cole - Okay, Nat King Cole was more crooner than rocker, but he’s an inductee into the Hall of Fame, and likely the inspiration for some parents to choose this single-syllable appellation.
Dylan – Bob Dylan might be a living legend, and might’ve helped his surname shift to given name status, but today’s parents grew up with Dylan on 90210. He’s now a solidly established choice for boys, and occasionally heard for girls. There’s still a shimmer of creative talent about Dylan, but he’s become a versatile, mainstream choice. He’s likely inspired many parents to consider other names on this list, and also sparked the rise of choices like Declan.
Jackson – I jotted this one down, then couldn’t remember why. Michael Jackson, of course! The King of Pop was more entertainer than rock star, but he was a legendary, successful one. In 2013, the stories of his troubled and tragic later days tend to cloud our memory of the singer. It’s hard to say how many parents are choosing Jackson in his honor; I’d guess it isn’t many. But with a few generations, that could shift.
Rock Star Names on the Rise
Cash - A fast rising rock star name for boys, Cash has been quietly gaining for years. Now he’s no longer surprising to find on a birth certificate, and Kash is also seen. He’s cowboy cool, boosted by the Johnny Cash biopic from recent history.
Cohen – Like Nat King Cole, Leonard Cohen isn’t a rock star name. He’s a controversial one, thanks to his significance amongst Jewish families. And something tells me that relatively few families are considering Cohen in honor of the singer-songwriter.
Harrison - One of the few names that retains his prep school vibe, Harrison seems at home wearing a bow tie or wielding a Stratocaster. It’s hard to say how many Harrisons were named after George and how many were inspired by other reasons: a way to honor a beloved Harry, maybe, or a search for a masculine choice that is just a little different.
Hendrix - Rock star names with high-value Scrabble letters are a no-brainer, right? Jimi Hendrix’s surname falls somewhere between Harrison and Jaxon.
Jagger - The -er ending and the letter J are favorites … and then there’s Mick, the frontman of living legends The Rolling Stones for over five decades. It’s originally an occupational surname for a peddler, but let’s face it – today, Jagger is all about rock star moves.
Lennon - There’s lots to love about Lennon. The two-syllable sound has been a staple for boys in recent years. But is he better for a son or a daughter? At the moment, Lennon is slightly more popular for the boys – but on the rise for both.
Nash - British musician Graham Nash is twice-inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, once with The Hollies, once as a member of Crosby, Stills & Nash. Despite his roots in the UK, Nash feels like a cowboy name – western, brash, cool. And at least a little bit rock star.
Undiscovered Rock Star Names
Bowie - David Bowie’s career has been almost as long and storied as Mick’s. The surname’s origins are uncertain – he could mean fair-haired, or possibly victorious. Bowie himself has been both of those. The Bo sound is catching on, too, in names like Bowen and Beau. If you’re looking for something less expected than Riley, Bowie is a strong candidate.
Costello – If Leonardo and Santiago can be popular choices for boys, why can’t we consider ends-with-o surname names for boys? Costello sounds Italian, but has Irish roots. He makes the list thanks to genre-spanning innovator Elvis Costello.
Crosby – A place name turned surname, he’s been worn by the crooner Bing Crosby. But Crosby makes this list thanks to David Crosby, twice-inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Byrds, and of Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Halen - As in Van. Despite many line-up changes, the group continues to release original music. With names like Jalen and Caylen and Hayley in vogue, Halen has seen some use in recent years.
Joplin - Is this one wearable? I’m not sure, but Janis Joplin is such a big deal that her name belongs on the list.
Turner – Ike and Tina are in the Hall of Fame, though Turner also brings to mind Orlando Bloom’s swashbuckling character in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Rock Star Names for Girls
Everly - Don and Phil Everly recorded a series of memorable songs in the 1950s and 60s. With a three-syllable sound and the possible short form Evie, Everly feels like a great girl name in 2013 – though Anthony Kiedis used the name for a son.
Isley - The Isley Brothers scored a string of hits in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. They’ve stayed active into the current day, with the line-up evolving to include different brothers, and even a brother-in-law. Sound-wise, Isley is a split between Isla and Riley - potentially, a real win.
Holly, Holiday – The Hall of Fame is very hospitable to hollies. There’s Buddy Holly, The Hollies, and Billie Holiday. And yet, somehow, Holly doesn’t feel like the most rock’n’roll name on this list, though Holiday might suggest the legendary jazz singer.
Marley – Worn by boys and girls, often a tribute to the famed reggae musicians, father and son. Today it is much more popular for our daughters, a cousin for Carly and Molly.
Presley - She brings to mind the King of Rock, but her sound is considered feminine. More than ten times as many girls received the name in 2012.
Summer – You’ll think of the season before you think of the summer, but Donna Summer will be inducted into Rock Hall this year.
Are there other rock star names you would consider? Do you like any of the choices on this list, or do they seem like they’re trying too hard?