The Beginning of Billie Jean

billie jean horton, country music, baby names, 1960s
Advertisement in Billboard (July 1961)

When I think of the name Billie Jean, I think of the Michael Jackson song. Next, I think of the tennis player.

But the name Billiejean first appeared in the U.S. baby name data way back in 1962, decades before the song, and years before the tennis player was at the height of her fame.

  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: 5 baby girls named Billie Jean
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: unlisted

My guess on this one? Country singer Billie Jean Horton.

Today she’s best remembered for her relationships with various country singers: Faron Young, Hank Williams (married 1952-1953), Johnny Horton (married 1953-1960), and Johnny Cash.

But she was a recording artist in her own right, and her most successful single, “Ocean Of Tears,” peaked at #29 on the country chart in August of 1961. The next year, for one year only, Billiejean popped up in the data.

The name didn’t return until 1973, when tennis player Billie Jean King defeated male player Bobby Riggs in tennis’s most famous “Battle of the Sexes” match. This time it stuck around until the late ’70s.

billie jean, michael jackson, song, 1980s, baby name,

It emerged a third time with the help of Michael Jackson, whose song “Billie Jean” was the #1 song in the nation for seven weeks straight in March and April of 1983.

What are your thoughts on the name Billie Jean? What’s your strongest association with the name?

Source: Billie Jean Horton – Wikipedia

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