Words: Ryan Waring
I’ve heard people say that too much of anything is not good for you, baby. But I don’t know about that. As many times as we’ve loved, we shared love, and made love, it doesn’t seem to me like it’s enough. It’s just not enough.
There are songs that made babies. There are songs that mane babies. There are songs that mean baby. There are songs that amen baby. But these are the songs that named babies, as supported with graphic evidence (the SFW numbers kind) tracking annual name popularity courtesy the fascinating Behind The Name .
“Tammy” – Debbie Reynolds (Released June 14, 1957)
In 1956, “Tammy” was toiling in nominal obscurity, found only in .013% of baby girls, a ratio poor enough for 582nd place that year (a spot staked by Adelynn in 2011). That all changed with the release of the film Tammy and the Bachelor in June of 1957. It would be the flick’s hit song, however, which would garner its only Oscar nomination and two versions of the tune would crack the ’57 Billboard charts, with Debbie Reynolds’ film version staking the top spot. By year’s end, “Tammy” had soared to become the 107th most popular girls name in America. In ’58, the cottonwoods were practically screaming above, and “Tammy” shot to .484% and 44th (Taylor in 2011). Tammy, Tammy… new parents were in love.
“Peggy Sue” – Buddy Holly (Released September 20, 1957)
Oh to have lived life as a “Peggy” or “Sue” in your booming ’30s! Yet both names found themselves falling out of favor by the 20th century halfway point. Then came the rockabilly pioneer whose gangling could only be exceeded by his goofy looks. Desperate and short-lived conspiracy by two factions of languishing girl names to save their relevancies? Shrewd play by Holly’s marketing team to target what would have been two popular names among his coed peers? I’m all ears. In any case, both names saw one last relative peak in 1958 before crashing like a small plane in stormy, rural Iowa. That’s how Rocky Marciano died, you know. Related: Chopped Onions.
“Sherry” – The Four Seasons (Released August 1962)
Granted, the name “Sherry” had seen more precipitous spikes in its recent history than that brought about by the Four Seasons in 1962, but it’s all about reaching the summit. That ’62 peak was high enough to rank 48th overall (Camila in 2011). Fun fact: this is also the same graph as Frank Valli’s first “Sherry” (:18-:20) when measuring for pitch over time. That’s almost as cool as that Aphex Twin “Equation” spectrogram.
“Help Me, Rhonda” – The Beach Boys (Released March 8, 1965)
“Rhonda” had been on a hot streak since the late ’40s. In 1947 she was sitting ugly at 315th (last year’s Nyla) but had slowly wedged her way up to 45th (last year’s more pedestrian Brianna) by 1962. Then 1963 happened. Our commander and chief was assassinated among other Mad Men season 3 subplots, and “Rhonda” saw its first dip in popularity since WWII (.007%, devastating enough to stay mired in 45th place). Everyone and her mother were left wondering, “Are we witnessing the fall of a star in real time?” until Brian Wilson and crew answered, “Nah, let’s wait a year,” and produced a song that boosted the name’s popularity up to 35th in 1965 (2011’s Navaeh, which I guess will sound more standard in the future) before fate took over and quickly crashed the dream, completing the distinctly Matterhorn/KKK hood shape displayed above.
“Michelle” – The Beatles (Released December 3, 1965)
Here it is: graphical representation of Beatlemania in America as it pertains to the naming of newborn girls. On August 15, 1965 the Beatles played Shea Stadium. On December 3rd, the Fab Four dropped Rubber Soul, the seventh track of which was this grammy-winning, Francophile-baiting ditty. The following year, the name “Michelle” nearly doubled in prevalence, rocketing up from 18th (2011 Avery) to 4th (2011 Olivia), and became a mainstay for the duration of the decade. After Yoko probably broke up the band, “Michelle” began to faint faster than a tween that fateful August night when the Mets were playing an away game, and neither Ms. Pfieffer, Ms. Kwan, Ms. Tanner, Ms. Branch, nor even Ms. Obama has been able to successfully revive it since.
“Angie” – The Rolling Stones (Released August 20, 1973)
If you had to blindly put your money on any song making this list, the Stones’ “Angie” might be the obvious bet. But while there’s a strong correlation, let’s not forget a very attractive third variable that could play here. In 1974, a one Ms. Dickinson could surely have risen the girls name from 254th (2011 Kelsey) all the way up to 170 (2011 Jenna) while she was raising men’s vein canes in “Police Woman” and especially “Big Bad Mama,” a performance probably responsible for the crush Junior Soprano still held some 30 years later.
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