Pseudonyms appear frequently throughout the arts. Literature has George Orwell, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde. Film has Boris Karloff, Marilyn Monroe and (sigh) Nicholas Cage. And those are but a few examples from areas that are positively overflowing with aliases. But with such a rich lineage of artistic pseudonyms, what is the reason for the rejection of given names and the embracing of alternative identities? It can be argued that alter egos can elevate a bland and unexciting title to the realm of the household and memorable, destroy class-based associations or even reflect the individual’s creativity and artistic philosophy.

And music, as one of our most innovative and dexterous mediums, offers a lot of scope for such performance and theatricality as well as the need for a name that will get you noticed. Always a platform for experimentation and exploration, music and lyrics afford the artist the chance to lose themselves behind the mask and play up to a constructed character.

There’s a hell of a lot of musicians that could have made it on to the list but I’m not naming names. So you’ll have to agree with who I’ve picked!

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This article was first posted on December 19, 2013