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Female Names in Songs

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I think I can recall meeting one Rhonda in my life…and you can bet that I could not get the Beach Boys’ hit “Help me, Rhonda” out of my head when I met her. That name is branded for life.

Like Rhonda (help, help me Rhonda…), there are so many names in our culture and society which have been forever colored by the famous songs which have celebrated them. Please don’t be offended if your name is Mandy, but if I ever meet you I will see Barry Manillow in my head, in front of his piano, singing Oh Mandy, you kissed me and stopped me from shaking –but I sent you away, oh Mandy. I think it’s safe to say that for many Americans, the name Mandy is pretty much tied to that corny ballad of the 70’s.

Allison will always be a hip name for those of us who strayed from the Top 20 list in the eighties and enjoyed Elvis Costello’s heart-felt ballad. My mother claims that my name: Amy was inspired by the book Little Women but I think more people recall Pure Prairie League’s Amy, what you gonna’ do-oo..? when they think of my name. I’m not complaining; it could be worse, I guess.

Michelle makes us think of Paul McCartney’s famous ballad which was supposedly first written with the lyrics “scrambled eggs.” (This makes me wonder: was there really a Michelle in the ex-Beatle’s life or did the name just sound better than singing about breakfast?) Another famous Beatles’ ballad is John Lennon’s Julia, about his mother. What a pleasant name association this gives us; John made it seem so pure and beautiful, as we could feel his admiration for his mother in his voice.

Renee’ is pretty 1970’s with a light-hearted, carefree feeling to it. The song “Walk Away, Renee“ was a catchy hit that can still frequently be heard playing on any oldies station.

If you are married to a Mr. Robinson and took his name in marriage, you are destined to drum up the lyrics Koo-koo-koo-choo, Mrs. Robinson… in the head of anyone who lived through the sixties or has seen the Oscar-winning film The Graduate. And don’t be surprised if your name raises an eyebrow, now and then, Mrs. Robinson (You tramp!). Several Simon and Garfunkel love songs have made certain names desperately romantic through their hauntingly poetic and tear-jerking mood and lyrics. Some of these were not necessarily their biggest hits, but more likely only known by those of us who once sobbed while we listened to them as reflective teenagers. For Emily, whenever I may find her has always given me chills, as has Kathy’s Song. Then there’s Cecilia, more upbeat but definitely a song that comes to mind if you ever meet someone with the somewhat uncommon name.

Gloria is often associated with the Van Morrison song by the same name (you know: G-l-o-r-i-a…Gloria!). Then there’s Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue; I don’t think there are many of us who have ever known a woman with this two-name combination but if we did, we would have an instant name association. The same can probably be said for Maggie Mae, as sung by Rod Stuart, the spikey-haired, raspy-voiced heart-throb of many ladies in the ‘70’s.

Of course, we cannot forget Roxanne. Anyone who knows anything about the 1980’s and the extremely popular band The Police is bound to hear the piercing sound of Sting belting out Roxanne, you don’t have to turn on the red light, in his or her head upon encountering someone with this name.

I’m sure the above list can be continued (and will continue to grow). Music, whether it is through repetition, our experiences or our emotional connections, is a very powerful part of our culture. Lyrics can color the connotations of many of the names names we encounter throughout our lives.

Author: Amy Block-Muzekari

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