The Entrance of Narada

narada, baby name, 1970s, 1980s, music

The Hindu name Narada first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the late ’70s:

  • 1983: 19 baby boys named Narada
  • 1982: 18 baby boys named Narada
  • 1981: 29 baby boys named Narada
  • 1980: 48 baby boys and 7 baby girls [debut] named Narada
  • 1979: 19 baby boys [debut] named Narada
  • 1978: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Musician and producer Narada Michael Walden, whose songs “I Don’t Want Nobody Else (To Dance with You)” and “I Shoulda Loved Ya” both reached the top 10 on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1979.

He went on to have a successful career, being nominated for a total of eight Grammys and winning three (two in the ’80s, one in the ’90s). He produced music for people like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, Gladys Knight, Shanice Wilson, Tevin Campbell, etc.

He was born Michael Walden in Michigan in 1952. In the early ’70s, he became a devotee of Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy gave him the spiritual name Narada, and Walden chose to use Narada as part of his stage name. (Carlos Santana, another follower, went by “Devadip Carlos Santana” for a time.)

In Hindu tradition, the character Narada is a sage and musician. He is portrayed “as both wise and mischievous, creating some of Vedic literature’s more humorous tales.”

Do you like Narada as a baby name? Would you use it?

Sources: Narada Michael Walden – Wikipedia, Narada Michael Walden Chart History – Billboard, Arunachal butterfly named after Narada

The Doll-Inspired Baby Name Shindana

shindana doll, tamu, 1970s, baby name
Portion of a Shindana ad (Ebony, Nov. 1971)

The intriguing name Shindana appeared in the U.S. baby name data for a total of three years:

  • 1975: unlisted
  • 1974: 6 baby girls named Shindana
  • 1973: unlisted
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: 6 baby girls named Shindana
  • 1970: 5 baby girls named Shindana [debut] – all 5 in California
  • 1969: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Shindana dolls, which were manufactured by Shindana Toys.

Shindana Toys was founded in 1968 as a division of Operation Bootstrap, located in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Operation Bootstrap was a job training center formed in the wake of the Watts riots (mid-August, 1965).

Black-owned and -operated, Shindana Toys was one of the first companies to make black dolls with ethnically correct features. The name of the company means “compete” in Swahili.

Though their very first doll was called Baby Nancy (introduced in 1968), many of their other dolls — such as Malaika (1969), Talking Tamu (1970), and Baby Zuri (1972) — had Swahili names. These Swahili names were “defined on the doll’s boxes or accompanying literature.” Malaika* means “angel,” Tamu means “sweet,” and Zuri means “beautiful.”

 MalaikaTamuZuri
197443 baby girls
(8 in CA, 8 in NY, 6 in MI)
36 baby girls
(5 in NY)
6 baby girls + 8 baby boys
197359 baby girls
(11 in CA, 11 in NY, 6 in MI, 5 in DC)
26 baby girls
(5 in NY)
10 baby girls + 5 baby boys
197272 baby girls
(11 in CA, 5 in NY, 5 in NJ, 5 in MI, 5 in OH)
55 baby girls
(9 in CA, in 9 NY)
.
197156 baby girls
(9 in CA, 7 in IL, 6 in DC, 6 in NY, 5 in MI)
46 baby girls
(12 in CA, 5 in IL)
5 baby girls [debut]
197037 baby girls
(7 in CA)
13 baby girls.
19697 baby girls7 baby girls [debut].
19688 baby girls [debut]..
1967...

[It’s curious to me that each of these names debuted a year before the corresponding dolls were introduced. Haven’t been able to figure that one out yet…]

Shindana Toys ended up producing over 30 black dolls (along with other types of toys and games). The company reached peak productivity in the mid-1970s, but slowed down after that, and finally ceased operations in 1983. Today, Shindana dolls are sought-after collectibles.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Shindana?

shindana doll, baby nancy, 1970s, baby name
Of course I had to throw in a pic of Baby Nancy. :)

P.S. If you know of any of the other Swahili names used for Shindana dolls, please comment! I couldn’t find a definitive list online.

*”Malaika” was also a song made famous by Miriam Makeba.

Sources:

The Apex of Aja

aja, album, steely dan, late 1970s, baby name,

The minimalistic name Aja saw massive jump in usage* in 1978. It was the fastest-rising name of 1978, in fact.

  • 1980: 311 baby girls named Aja [rank: 597th]
  • 1979: 362 baby girls named Aja [rank: 526th]
  • 1978: 491 baby girls named Aja [rank: 412th] – peak usage
  • 1977: 14 baby girls named Aja
  • 1976: unlisted

Why?

Because of the soft rock duo Steely Dan. In 1977, the band released both a song called “Aja” and an album called Aja. (The pronunciation is identical to that of “Asia.”)

The title track was an 8-minute jazz-rock song. Band member Donald Fagen said that the song’s title was inspired by a woman he knew of named Aja:

I did have a friend in high school whose brother was in the Army and came back with a Korean wife named Aja. I don’t know how she spelled it — but that was the source for that name.

Aja ended up becoming Steely Dan’s best-selling album. It was nominated for several Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year (though it only won for best sound engineering).

What are your thoughts on the baby name Aja? How would you pronounce it?

Source: Q&A: Donald Fagen – Rolling Stone, Aja (album) – Wikipedia

*Aja also saw usage as a boy name during this time, but I didn’t include the numbers in the post.

The Baby Name Keena

keena, brave eagle, 1956

The name Keena has had a dueling dual-gender history.

Keena (and Kina) started surfacing in the girls’ data in the early 1950s, perhaps influenced by the usage of Tina, which was creeping upward at that time. (Tina wouldn’t become massively trendy until the late ’50s and early ’60s.)

Then came the single-season TV series Brave Eagle (1955-1956), which was TV’s first attempt at a western told from a Native American point of view. A main character on the show was Brave Eagle’s adopted son Keena, played by Hopi/Karuk child actor Anthony “Tony” Numkena (stage name Keena Numkena). This character boosted the name Keena into the boys’ data for the first time:

  • 1958: 41 girls and 11 boys named Keena
  • 1957: 34 girls and 5 boys named Keena
  • 1956: 21 girls and 11 boys named Keena
  • 1955: 7 girls named Keena
  • 1954: 6 girls named Keena

A decade and a half later, female Olympic swimmer Keena Rothhammer (born in 1957) won both a gold and a bronze medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. She also twice set a new world record in the women’s 800-meter freestyle (on successive days).

The same year, usage of the name spiked for girls:

  • 1974: 64 baby girls named Keena
  • 1973: 99 baby girls named Keena
  • 1972: 152 baby girls named Keena [peak usage for girls]
  • 1971: 29 baby girls named Keena
  • 1970: 34 baby girls named Keena

Here’s what Keena told Sports Illustrated about her name: “My mother says it’s Hawaiian. She says she heard it on the radio.”

Then, more than a decade after that, male linebacker Keena Turner (born in 1958), who played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1980 to 1990, had some particularly good seasons in the mid-1980s

And in 1985, usage of the name spiked for boys (as well as girls):

  • 1987: 47 girls and 9 boys named Keena
  • 1986: 57 girls and 15 boys named Keena
  • 1985: 105 girls and 46 boys named Keena [peak usage for boys]
  • 1984: 66 girls and 12 boys named Keena
  • 1983: 53 girls named Keena

Now it’s your turn: Do you like the name Keena? Do you prefer it as a boy name or as a girl name? Why?

Source: “Mark of Excellence.” Sports Illustrated. 14 Aug. 1972: 16-21.

The Appearance of Pashen (& Passion)

The baby name Pashen debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1974.

I’ve known for a while that the baby name Passion debuted impressively in 1974. Not as high as Nakia, but higher than Savalas.

  • 1976: 30 baby girls named Passion
  • 1975: 34 baby girls named Passion
  • 1974: 34 baby girls named Passion [debut]
  • 1973: unlisted
  • 1972: unlisted

I occasionally looked for a reason, but never spent too much time on it because word-names are notoriously tricky to research.

Then I happened to discover something about the like-sounding name Pashen — which also debuted in ’74, and which I thought was merely a variant of Passion.

  • 1976: unlisted
  • 1975: 6 baby girls named Pashen
  • 1974: 9 baby girls named Pashen [debut & peak]
  • 1973: unlisted
  • 1972: unlisted

As it turns out, the blaxploitation movie Willie Dynamite, which was released nationally in early 1974, featured a female character named Pashen (played by Joyce Walker). Willie was a New York City pimp, and Pashen was one of his call girls. Here’s how Pashen’s name appears in the end credits:

pashen, spelling, willie dynamite, 1970s, movie

So: “Pashen” was the main form of the name, while “Passion” — despite being correctly spelled — was the variant form. (Other variant forms that also debuted in 1974 were Pashion and the one-hit wonder Pashun.)

Since then, though, “Passion” has emerged as the preferred spelling among expectant parents. Well over 2,000 baby girls have been named Passion since the mid-1970s, whereas only about two dozen baby girls have been named Pashen.

What are your thoughts on these names? Which spelling do you prefer?

Source: Willie Dynamite (1974) – IMDb

P.S. The actor who played Willie Dynamite, Roscoe Orman, was also Gordon on Sesame Street!