What gave the baby name Diana a boost in 1957?

Paul Anka EP featuring "Diana" (1957).
Paul Anka EP

The ancient name Diana saw its highest usage in the U.S. in 1957, according to the SSA’s baby name data:

  • 1959: 8,637 baby girls named Diana [rank: 49th]
  • 1958: 9,162 baby girls named Diana [rank: 45th]
  • 1957: 9,431 baby girls named Diana [rank: 43rd]
  • 1956: 7,851 baby girls named Diana [rank: 56th]
  • 1955: 7,844 baby girls named Diana [rank: 55th]

Here’s a visual:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Diana in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Diana

What gave the name a boost that year?

If you’ve ever listened to oldies radio, you’ll know the answer to this one: the song “Diana” by Paul Anka.

A Canadian of Lebanese descent, Paul had developed a crush on a slightly older girl named Diana Ayoub when he was 15. In his autobiography he said, “I saw her in church and at community events — and I was smitten.”

The situation inspired him to write the song “Diana,” which was recorded in May of 1957 and released in July — the month he turned 16.

The song quickly became a worldwide hit.

Billboard‘s “Hot 100” chart didn’t exist yet in 1957, but “Diana” peaked at #2 on its predecessor, the “Honor Roll of Hits” chart. (It wasn’t able to dislodge “Tammy” by Debbie Reynolds from the top spot.)

Paul sang “Diana” not once but twice on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957. Here’s his second appearance:

What are your thoughts on the name Diana? Do you like it more or less than the similar name Donna (which was also popularized in the late ’50s by a young man singing about his crush)?


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