Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Would a Freddy Mercury, by any other name, have sung as sweetly?

What's in a name? According to India's Albert Dali "Naming Consultants", everything.

Focussing on the naming aspect of branding, they say they do "Name Researching, Name Crafting, Name Auditing, Domain Booking, Trademarking and even Name Numerology[?]" Which are all important things to get right, in this day and age.

But back to Freddy. How much did his success really depend on his Nom de Glam? In his case probably quite a lot.

The other three examples of famous name changes in this campaign (found on Ads of The World) are Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jeane Mortenson/Baker), George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), and Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret). For the first two, the name change was simply to invoke the personal brand they wanted to express, while Le Corbusier just wanted to sound cool. But what about Freddy?

Born in Zanzibar, ફારોખ બલ્સારા‌ (Farrokh Bulsara) was the son of Indian Parsis — descendants of Iranian Zoroastrians who long ago settled in India. He took on the "Mercury" name around the time he named Queen. (I asume he had been going by "Freddie" for some time, as he had been living in England since age 17.)

Today, I find Freddie Mercury's ethnic and religious background fascinating. As a child in the 70s, I had no idea he was anything but ethnically British. Then again, as a prepubescent boy I didn't even know he was bi. (The '70s were like that.) While his sexuality should have been obvious, I think his ethnicity was played fairly low-key.

Which makes me wonder: would British, American, and other "Western" fans have been as entranced by a man named Farrokh Bulsara? By a name that is strange and foreign to their ears? Could he have been all that and kept his original identity? And is it evidence of perceived racism?

We'll never know. The name Mercury was his choice, and the man was going through a pretty serious identity crisis at the time. But I also wonder if he could have made a go at it, with more attention to his "exotic" background, in the 21st century.

Whoa. This dumb little ad made me think way too much. Occupational hazard.


  1. if you are thinking strictly just 'British, American, and other "Western" fans', even these days, the name might be a hard sell. it would be an easy sell in the international (i.e., non europe / north america) market. it definitely would have been an impossible sell in the 70's when queen started.


  2. btw, i DO like the naming consultants and how they self-describe themselves. i'm sold!


  3. He did the name change, but didn't exactly hide his origin -- think of the repetition of "Bismillah" in Bohemian Rhapsody, or of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq6OoPB5FIM