What's In A Name?

Change the graffiti on the bathroom wall, get your tattoo fixed, get your T-shirt airbrushed and change the name on your year-end list: Dance pop artist Santogold is now Santigold.

She's not telling you why—that's just how it is. Or so the press release announcing as much read this past February. And with that unceremonious announcement, the career path of one of the hottest new artists of 2008 will be forever altered.

Just how much the name change will affect Santigold's career remains to be seen. But her swing through town this week started us thinking about how some notorious name changes have affected other musicians...

John Mellencamp

At the insistence of former manager Tony DeFries, Mellencamp actually began his career in 1976 under the stage name Johnny Cougar. His 1982 breakthrough album, American Fool, released under the Cougar name, spawned such hits as "Hurts So Good" and "Jack and Diane" and finally earned him enough clout with his label to release 1983's Uh-Huh under the name John Cougar Mellencamp.

Under his new moniker, Mellencamp was still able to find commercial success with "Pink Houses" and "Crumblin' Down," both of which reached the Billboard Top 10. In 1991, Mellencamp altered his name again, shedding the "Cougar" tag once and for all. Bolstered by the single "Our Country" appearing in frequently airing Chevrolet commercials, his 2007 album Freedom's Road became the highest-debuting album of Mellencamp's career.


In 1997, Sean Combs released the album No Way Out under the name Puff Daddy. The album subsequently won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, carried largely by the strength of the single "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," which spent six weeks atop the charts.

In 2001, Puff Daddy officially became P. Diddy, after which he landed several minor film roles and launched a fairly successful reality television show, Making The Band 2 on MTV. By 2005, the rap mogul announced he was dropping the "P" to become known as simply "Diddy." His 2006 album Press Play, released under the Diddy name, debuted at No. 1 in the United States.


Born Prince Rogers Nelson, the super-musician first started using the name Prince while releasing R&B albums in the late 1970s. He quickly gained the reputation of being an eccentric genius, often writing, recording, producing and playing as many as 27 instruments on his albums himself. Along with his spectacular talent, Prince's outrageous outfits, as well as his sexually charged and at-times controversial music, helped him to become one of the most successful artists of the '80s.

In 1993, Prince became engaged in a legal battle with his label Warner Bros. Records, regarding the release of Prince material. The forward-thinking Prince decided his best option was to change his name to the Love Symbol. Being an unpronounceable logo, he was frequently referred to as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Although the Love Symbol years were some of The Artist's most prolific, they also produced the lowest-selling albums of his career.

When his Warner publishing contract expired in May 2000, The Artist officially became Prince again. He quickly began regaining the acceptance of his fans, and his Musicology tour went on to become the highest-grossing tour of 2004. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that same year. And his appearance at the 2007 Super Bowl halftime show proved that Prince was once again back on top.

Yusuf Islam

With triple-platinum albums Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat, Cat Stevens cemented his place as perhaps the greatest folk musician of all time. The legendary performer has sold more than 60 million albums in his career and has received multiple accolades for his brilliant songwriting.

In 1977, at the height of his career, Stevens converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusuf Islam, and decided to dedicate his life to philanthropic causes in the Muslim community. Although he has released a pair of albums in recent years under the Yusuf designation, they have been met with only marginal success.

Despite his once legendary status as Cat Stevens, the only thing most people remember about Yusuf Islam is the 2004 incident in which he was denied entry into the United States after being mistaken for a terrorist on the no-fly list.

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Cory Graves