Why the name of Halle Berry’s new baby boy, of course! Our Baby Name of the Day is Maceo.
Before you accuse Halle and husband of inventing Maceo, know that it isn’t so. The name has history, and it’s been around for ages. In 2012, 42 newborn boys received the name. That’s down from 2011’s 67 newborn Maceos, but it is still far more than zero.
Where does the name come from? I’ve seen it listed as a form of Matthew, which seems plausible – especially if you pronounce the ‘c’ as a ‘ch’ – mah CHAY oh. There’s also the Old English name Mæssa and variants, which merged with Matthew and so survived – sort of.
He remained in use in at least one part of the world.
Back in the nineteenth century, Maceo Grajales was a guerrilla leader of the Cuban Army of Independence. Grajales worked his way up from private to second in command of the entire army. While he died before Cuba was free, his contributions are considered pivotal to the effort, and he is remembered with a monument in Havana – pictured above. He’s sometimes referred to by his first and middle names – Antonio Maceo.
Around the same time Grajales lost his life in the fight for freedom, Maceo Pinkard was born in West Virginia. I can’t connect the two, though it seems plausible that headlines about the war in Cuba could have reached tiny Bluefield, where Pinkard was born. He would go on to become a legendary figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the composer of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” among many other memorable tunes.
Was it the influence of the Cuban rebel? Maybe. I found at least one person named Antonio Maceo, a Memphis businessman born in 1909.
- Maceo Anderson, a tap dancer who graduated from Harlem’s Cotton Club to Hollywood performances with Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope.
- Blues Hall of Famer Maceo Merriweather. He was actually born Major, but answered to Maceo throughout his career.
- Then there’s Maceo Parker. You’ve probably heard him, either on James Brown recordings, or in Parliament-Funkadelic. Which brings us to the place I first heard it: Jane’s Addiction recorded a song called “My Cat’s Name is Maceo.” At first glance, it is a song about a cat. And it is about a cat. It was bumped from their 1988 breakthrough album, “Nothing’s Shocking,” but finally surfaced on a compilation album in 1997. Yes, lead singer Perry Farrell really has a cat called Maceo. Named after Maceo Parker. And Parker plays on the track.
That last story makes me wonder why we don’t all name our kids Maceo.
It is sometimes a surname of Italian origin. The Maceo crime family flourished in Galveston, Texas, during Prohibition, and were later involved with Las Vegas in its early days.
Add it all up, and he has all of the makings of a hit. His sound is exactly on trend, his history is richly musical, multicultural, and inspiring. Maceo has been overlooked for too long.