A Brief History
On July 27, 2019, while enjoying Sirius/XM Radio, the subject of one-word-title songs was the theme, giving this author the inspiration to compile a list of the 6 Best Songs wherein the title is a person’s name, just a one word name. Obviously, since the list is not based on scientific data such as record sales, it is necessarily subjective and based only on my humble opinion. You are welcome to criticize the choices on the list and to nominate your own choices for songs that should be named on such a list. To be fair, we are naming 3 songs with a Male name and 3 songs with a Female name. (Yeah, we know, we left out “Angie,” “Sara,” “Jolene,” “Roxanne,” “Rosanna,” “Jessica,” “Mandy,” “Amanda,” “Amy,” and a bajillion other great songs, so go ahead and tell us which ones we should have listed!)
(Enjoy our other articles based on music and songs, such as “10 Great Musical Collaborators,” “10 Greatest Musical Works,” “10 Wacky and Wonderful Country Music Songs,” “10 Iconic TV Music Performances,” “10 Songs with the Word Cigarette(s) in the Lyrics,” “10 Hit Songs That Don’t Have the Title in the Lyrics,” “10 Good Stripper Songs,” “10 Of the Sexiest Songs of All Time,” and many more! Just type in “music” or “songs” in the search function on this website to see such articles.)
Female Honorable Mention: “Patricia,” Perez Prado Orchestra, 1958, a #1 instrumental featured as the theme song for an HBO series. Do you know which series?
Female Dishonorable Mention: “Maria,” from West Side Story, a 1961 film based on the Broadway musical. Not only do I get tired of hearing it, the song is so sappy it makes me gag. (No hard feelings if you like it, because most people do!)
Male Dishonorable Mention: “Norman,” Sue Thompson, 1961, a song that made it to #3 in the US even though it is nasal and very, very sappy. (Please do not tell anyone, but I like the song…)
Male Honorable Mention: “Ben,” Michael Jackson, 1972. Written for the movie by the same name, with mega-star Michael Jackson singing his heart out the song went to #1 in the US, though only for a week. It ended up ranked #20 for the year, 1972.
Male: “Daniel,” Elton John, 1973.
Before Michael Jackson truly came into his own, Elton John was the acknowledged “King of Pop” and was enormously popular, due in part to his wonderful rendition of a ballad in honor of “Daniel,” his “brother.” Incredibly, this familiar ballad only reached #4 on the British charts and #2 in the USA. Canadians, being much smarter than Americans and the British, made the song #1 on their charts. Written by the power song making duo of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Taupin said of the song, “‘Daniel’ had been the most misinterpreted song that we’d ever written…” Taupin said the song is about a Viet Nam veteran returning home to Texas. A fact that haunts Elton John fans, is that the final verse was cut from the song, giving endless speculation about what it had entailed.
Female: “Marianne,” Terry Gilkyson and The Easy Riders, 1956.
A familiar calypso tune that is itself a remake of an early song called “Mary Ann,” this version has been covered by numerous big name acts, including Trini Lopez, Harry Belafonte, The Hilltoppers, Burl Ives, The Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four, and believe it or not Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (under the nom de guerre, “The Charmer”)! In the book version of the James Bond story, Dr. No, the Honeychile Rider character is humming “Marianne” while collecting seashells, although in the movie, Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder is humming a different song. The tune made it to #4 for Gilkyson, and to #3 for The Hilltoppers.
Male: “Dominique,” The Singing Nun, 1963.
This incredibly catchy tune, sung in French by a Catholic nun, actually Jeannine Deckers of Belgium, was not only popular in Belgium and France, but also in the United States where it reached #1 and many other countries. In fact, Deckers recorded versions in the following languages: Dutch, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese as well as French! The title character being sung about is Saint Dominic, a Spanish priest that founded the Dominicans. Perhaps you recall hearing the song over and over during season #2 of American Horror Story?
Female: “Rhiannon,” Fleetwood Mac, 1975.
Who could possibly sing this song with a more haunting style than Stevie Nicks? Well, no big surprise she wrote the song! Nicks explained, “This song’s about an old Welsh witch.” Live performances were reportedly a real treat when the band played this tune, reaching a level Mick Fleetwood described thusly, “…her Rhiannon in those days was like an exorcism.” The radio version is pretty darn good, too, but incredibly (to us), the song made it to #11 in the US! Again, the smarter Canadians made the song #4, although it should have been a #1, at least in my world. American Idol contestant, Haley Reinhart, did a highly creditable job of performing the tune during Season 10 of American Idol.
Male: “Mickey,” Toni Basil, 1981.
True, the video really makes this song, with Basil jumping around in a cheerleader outfit, but even without the classic video the song is so lively and so catchy we had to include it! This tune also provided the basis for a Weird Al Yankovic parody, “Ricky” in which he makes fun of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. What you may not have known, is that “Mickey” itself is an adaptation of an earlier tune, “Kitty,” recorded by Racey in 1979.
Female: “Layla,” Eric Clapton, 1971.
Technically a recording by Clapton’s blues band, Derek and the Dominos, the album version is truly an epic, running over 7 minutes long, although the single version is only 2:43. Clapton wrote the song with band member Jim Gordon, and possibly, though not confirmed, also with Rita Coolidge. Oddly enough, the song is not inspired by a girl named Layla, but in real life, by Pattie Boyd, the then wife of ex-Beatle George Harrison, a “good friend” of Clapton. The song often appears on lists of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time, and definitely rates as such on any such list by this author. Contrasting musical styles found in the song are allegedly due to Clapton and Gordon writing separately. Not only was Boyd married to one of the most famous musicians in the world and the object of attention of another, she was also the subject of an internet death hoax in 2019!
Question for students (and subscribers): What is your pick for the greatest song titled after a person’s name? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Buck, Kevin. A Concise History of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Year of the Book , 2018.
Fleming, Ian. Dr, No. Fine Communications, 1997.
O’Neill, Bill. The Great Book of Rock Trivia: Amazing Trivia, Fun Facts & The History of Rock and Roll. CreateSpace, 2018.