She skyrocketed from obscurity to the #1 spot in the US.
Thanks to Kelly for this suggestion. With a happy birthday to Nameberry co-founder Linda Rosenkrantz, our Baby Name of the Day is Linda.
Up until 1947, there was a constant in the US Top 1000: Mary occupied the top spot, year after year after year.
If you checked the rankings, the name would eventually unseat Mary was there, too. Linda hovered in the 200s or 300s most years. And then she started her climb: #97 in 1936, #15 by 1939, and #1 in 1947.
Linda stayed at #1 through 1952 and remained in the Top Ten until 1965. Not only was she wildly popular, she was wildly popular during the post-World War II baby boom. There are a LOT of Lindas.
What explains her rise? I suspect it is mostly music:
- In 1931, Al Bowlly recorded “Linda.” The lyrics “Linda, I’m in love with you, Linda … Linda, do you love me, too?” must have stuck with parents. It wasn’t Bowlly’s biggest hit, but the crooner was wildly popular in his day. He died in London during the Blitz. You’ve almost certainly heard his songs, as they’ve been used in everything from the soundtrack for The Shining to EastEnders;
- Opera gives us Linda di Chamounix, an 1842 work by Donizetti, first performed by the Metropolitan Opera in 1934 and 1935. Lily Pons – a big star in her day – sang the lead soprano role of Linda;
- In 1945, The Story of G.I. Joe scooped up a handful of Oscar nominations, including Best Original Song, for Ann Ronell’s “Linda;”
- Then came 1946’s “Linda,” written by Jack Lawrence and first performed by Buddy Clark. The song hit #1 in 1947 – as did the name. Plenty of recordings followed, including Jan and Dean’s, which added the le-le-le-le-linda refrain.
There’s a fascinating backstory here. The song had been written years earlier, but never recorded. As Lawrence tells it, he was asked by his friend, Lee Eastman, to record a song for his young daughter Linda. Mrs. Eastman – Louise – had a popular song bearing her name; so did their firstborn, Laura. Linda felt left out. Could Lawrence – then in charge of oodles of musicians entertaining the troops – help out?
It is no wonder that the Eastman family ended up with a Linda – apparently, they wanted to continue the “L” theme. But it is surprising that they’d never discovered Al Bowlly’s song.
But my favorite part of Lawrence’s story is this: apparently, he was urged to change the name of his single:
Most of them like everything about the song but the name Linda. “Why Linda?” they would ask. “That’s not a popular name”. One guy said: “Call it Ida — after my mother-in-law and I’ll publish it” … Another maven suggested the name Mandy. He felt that had a more musical ring than Linda.
Just like new parents today are often surprised to learn that Ava is a top ten name, neither Lawrence nor the publishers he approached realized that Linda was exactly the right song title.
There’s more, of course. Linda Eastman grew up to marry Paul McCartney.
There are two possible origins for the name. First, names like Rosalind contain the Germanic element linde – tender. In Spanish, she means pretty – and that’s the meaning that the Buddy Clark recording references.
The list of famous Lindas is too long to include here, but most of them are grown-up. In 2010, Linda ranked a relatively obscure #624, even as parents embrace names like Adalyn.
Odds are Linda will be back in baby naming vogue in another generation or two – and you’ll have your choice o charming, retro lull-a-byes.