Artists Who Changed Their Names, with Mixed Results

Not all parents were created equal. There are parents who have no tact, parents who are too strict, parents who make out in front of their kids, and parents who simply have bad taste. Unfortunately, these parents still get to name their children, which is why it’s understandable that some kids can’t wait until legal age to change their names. Hey, Plato definitely has a better ring than Aristocles, son of Ariston, of the deem Cloytus. And Leon Trotsky probably realized early on that Lev Davidovich Bronshtein wouldn’t go over too well at the playground. God only knows what nom-de-plume Apple Paltrow will take on in years to come.

Of course, when you get to choose your name the first time around, you only have yourself to blame, which is why Mos Def’s recent announcement that he’ll be reborn as Yasiin come 2012 raises eyebrows. But the soon-to-be Yasiin is not the first artist to bring a stage name in for an upgrade–or an accidental downgrade. Read on for some artists whose name changes were also career changers, and decide for yourself whether Mos Def’s metamorphosis will usher in positive, new beginnings or just be the most confusing rechristening since the Triboro became the RFK.


The artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince — having now returned to plain, old Prince — is perhaps the most notorious name changer in the music world. Born Prince Rogers Nelson, the pop star experienced his most commercially successful years as an artist during the early ‘90s, when he debuted with his band, The New Power Generation, and regularly made it onto the top of Billboard’s music charts. But 1993 marks not only his rechristening as an unpronounceable image — a mashup of the male and female symbols — but also a downward spiral in his career. His next two albums hardly sold; although he blamed Warner Bros. for insufficient marketing, we think he might have done better on word-of-mouth publicity had he gone with a name people could actually say. In 2000, he finally re-entered the music world as Prince, but his popularity never returned to its previous levels. On the other hand, he will be forever be remembered as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince — even by people who would have never heard of him otherwise.

Was: Prince
Became: Unpronounceable symbol above
Decision-making skills: Bad. Unpronounceable is generally not a good way to go when it comes to names.