Last week, Jermaine Jackson (Michael’s older brother and a member of The Jackson 5, now simply The Jacksons) officially changed his last name to “Jacksun,” for “artistic reasons.” (Does that mean the group will now be known as “The Jackson 4 Plus 1?”)
“If Prince and P. Diddy can do it, why can’t and shouldn’t Jermaine?” said Jackson’s — sorry, JackSUN’s — attorney.
Well, despite the obvious fact that unlike Jacksun, Prince and Diddy (clearly, Jermaine’s attorney didn’t get the memo on Sean Comb’s latest name change) are, well stars, changing your stage name can have varying degrees of repercussions. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Very, very bad.
Let’s take a look:
• Dionne Warwick — In 1971, the singer who made “Walk on By” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” international hits followed the advice of her astrologer and added an extra “e” to her last name. This seemingly minor change resulted in a severe career plummet, and even though Warwick excised the extra “e” in 1975, the damage had already been done. By the ’90s, she was doing infomercials for — wait for it — the Psychic Friends Network. Because, you know, it worked out so well for her.
• John Mellencamp — In the 1970s, Mellencamp was forced to be become “Johnny Cougar” by his manager. He never liked it, and after he scored a major hit album in 1982, he began to slowly change his name back, going from “John Cougar” to “John Cougar Mellencamp” and finally “John Mellencamp.” The result? A smooth transition that didn’t affect his career at all — in fact, he had more hits than ever after adding his surname.
• Prince — In 1993, the Purple One underwent the most radical name change of all for someone of his status, adopting an unpronounceable symbol and insisting that he be referred to as “The Artist Formally Known as Prince.” Speculation that this was a ploy to get out of a contract with Warner Bros. was substantiated when he changed his name back — after the contract expired. It took the artist known again as Prince a decade to regain his pre-name-change chart status.
• Sean Combs — First, he was Puff Daddy. Then he was Puffy. Then P. Diddy. Then just Diddy. What’s next — Piddy Piddy Bang Bang? At this point, his fans don’t know what to call him, which is maybe why he devotes more time to being a business mogul than a rapper these days.
• Snoop Lion — The word’s still out on the latest name change for Snoop Dogg, formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg. Apparently, he switched from being a canine to a feline last year after embracing Rasta and playing reggae. (Think he knew about Rastafarians’ belief that smoking ganja is a religious right? Hmmm ) Some Rastafarians aren’t pleased, and have threatened to sue if he continues to use the name “Lion,” i.e., “Lion of Judah.” At any rate, it will be interesting to hear what fans call back whenever Snoop performs his 1993 hit “Who Am I?”
Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or: