Few people must know that the real name of the American songwriter Bob Dylan is Robert Allen Zimmerman. In fact he took his musical name from the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Dylan recalled: "What I was going to do as soon as I left home was just call myself Robert Allen ... It sounded like a Scottish king and I liked it." However, in reading Down Beat magazine, he discovered there was a saxophonist named David Allyn. Dylan adds, "I'd seen some poems by Dylan Thomas. Dylan and Allyn sounded similar. Robert Dylan. Robert Allyn. The letter D came on stronger."
Dylan Thomas, who was Welsh but who wrote exclusively in English, was born in the city of Swansea. Dylan Thomas died in New York in 1953 at the early age of 39. In purely literary terms, he was immensely important, but his influence extends beyond the bounds of literature. Dylan Thomas' biographer George Tremlet explains that the poet's use of words -playing with their sound, rather than their meaning- was to be imitated by rock musicians. Tremlet also maintains that in terms of lifestyle, Dylan was "the first rock star".
The great poet influenced many other rock musicians, apart form Bob Dylan. The cover of the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, for example, includes a photograph of Dylan Thomas.
Other rock singers also changed their names. Bono is the stage name of Paul David Hewson, the lead vocalist of the Irish band U2. "Bono Vox" is an alteration of Bonavox, a Latin phrase which translates to "good voice." It is said he was nicknamed "Bono Vox" by his friend Gavin Friday, after a hearing aid shop they regularly passed in Dublin's Talbot Street because he sang so loudly he seemed to be singing for the deaf. Initially, Bono disliked the name. However, when he learned it loosely translated to "good voice", he accepted it.
Brian Hugh Warner (born January 5, 1969), is better known by his stage name Marilyn Manson. His stage name was formed from the names of actress Marilyn Monroe and convicted murderer Charles Manson. The other members of his band also changed their names. Jeordie Osbourne White (born June 20, 1971), is also known by his pseudonym Twiggy Ramirez (derived from Twiggy, a fashion icon, and Richard Ramirez, a convicted serial killer). Kenneth Robert Wilson (born September 28, 1966) is an American drummer who is only known by his stage name, Ginger Fish. His pseudonym originates from the combination of the names of Ginger Rogers, a dancer, and Albert Fish, an American serial killer, cannibal and pedophile.
There was a time when being a female writer was looked down upon and to their works published or even read by a large number of people, women writers had to use what is called a pen name or pseudonym to disguise their identity. Here is a list of pen names and their true identities:
• “A Lady” - Jane Austen – Originally Austen wrote all of her works anonymously. All of her title pages in her novels listed this pen name.
• George Sand - Aurore Dudevant – Dudevant actually went out in public as her alter ego: dressing the part of a man and going to the opera.
• Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell - Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte – Originally the works of the Bronte sisters were published under their male names. The publishers were deceived; they had no idea these 3 were actually women. They also had to hide their new found profession from their father who was an Anglican preacher.
• A.M. Barnard - Louisa May Alcott – She also wrote under the names of Aunt Weedy, Flora Fairfield, Oranthy Bluggage and Minerva Moody. Her now famous works of Little Women and Little Men didn’t sell as well and she needed more money. She wrote more sensual and provocative stories under her other names while preserving her “good image” associated with the other stories she wrote.
• George Eliot - Mary Ann Evans – Author of Silas Marner. She was a famous literary critic and was also having an affair with a married man that was well known. She changed her name when publishing her books in order to hide her identity and also to get her books out to a wider audience.
Even though women have more rights today than in the past, there are still modern authors who choose to use pen names for the same reasons as women did in the past. In fact when J.K. Rowling first began publishing the Harry Potter series, her publishers advised her to use her initials or other pen name because they didn’t think little boys would read her series if they discovered she was a woman!
Shakespeare said that "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." What he meant is that the names which are given to things are arbitrary and not important at all. Arthur Miller, however, stresses in his play The Crucible the importance of one's name since it sums up a person's identity. Perhaps the most poignant scene in The Crucible happens at the end when the protagonist, John Proctor, refuses to sign his name on a false confession. When asked why he refuses to sign the document, even though it could save his life, he cries out in anguish, “Because it is my name. It is the only name I will ever have.” Proctor's statement is a heartfelt reminder that our identity begins at birth when our parents name us.