Where did the baby name Shilo come from in 1970?

Neil Diamond's album "Velvet Gloves and Spit" (1970 reissue)
Neil Diamond album

Long before celebs Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt popularized the name Shiloh, singer Neil Diamond put the name Shilo (no H) on the onomastic map:

  • 1972: 35 baby girls and 19 baby boys named Shilo
  • 1971: 32 baby girls and 11 baby boys named Shilo
  • 1970: 38 baby girls and 9 baby boys named Shilo [dual-gender debut]
  • 1969: unlisted
  • 1968: unlisted

Diamond’s song “Shilo” was originally and released on the 1967 album Just for You, but his label wouldn’t release it as a single, because they didn’t think an introspective song about an imaginary childhood friend (“Shilo, when I was young / I used to call your name / When no one else would come / Shilo, you always came”) would be a commercial success.

Diamond switched labels in 1968. By 1970, several of his new songs (“Sweet Caroline” and “Holly Holy”) had become big hits.

The folks back at the original label decided to capitalize on this success by giving “Shilo” a different backing track and releasing the new version as a single. This spiffed-up version reached #24 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in April of 1970.

Diamond responded by re-recording the song (“with a quicker tempo, a tighter arrangement, and a bolder, if slightly less expressive vocal”) and including it on the reissued version of his 1968 album Velvet Gloves And Spit, which came out in late 1970 with a redesigned front cover that drew attention to the addition.

The song’s lyrics suggest that Shilo was female, but the name debuted in the baby name data for both genders in 1970. Shilo was the top girl-name debut of 1970, in fact. (Other dual-gender debuts include Dasani and Dondi.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Shilo? Which spelling do you prefer?

Sources: Shilo – Neil Diamond | Song Info | AllMusic, Neil Diamond chart history – Billboard, SSA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.