Behind the Name: Lana Del Rey

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Lana Del Rey is known for her dreamy sound that has captivated the minds and hearts of fans around the world. But she went through multiple name changes before she landed on the exotic moniker she’s known for today.

The “Summertime Sadness” singer has become one of the most high-profile pop singer-songwriters of her generation with eight studio albums to her name. Her ninth, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd is set to arrive in March 2023. Below, we explore the meaning behind the name Lana Del Rey.

Meaning Behind the Band Name:

Born in 1985 as Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, the singer started off her career as Lizzy Grant, a spinoff of her birth name. She recorded her first unreleased EP, Young Like Me, in 2005, followed by Kill Kill in 2008. She then changed her stage name to May Jailer and recorded an unreleased album, Sirens, in 2006, which leaked online six years later.

The San Diego Union-Tribune also reports that she briefly performed as Sparkle Jump Rope Queen before becoming Lana Del Rey. Being the ever-evolving woman she is, she first introduced her signature moniker on the 2010 album Lana Del Ray A.K.A. Lizzy Grant, later changing the spelling from “Ray” to “Rey.” In a 2012 interview with MTV, Del Rey recalled how she and her sister Caroline were spending a lot of time in Miami with friends from Cuba at the time she decided to change her name. Their experience from their many nights out on the town helped inspire the stage name.

“I knew that I wanted a name that sounded sort of exotic and reminded me of the seaside on the Floridian coast,” she described. “Lana Del Rey sounded beautiful to me and I wanted a name for the music that I could start shaping the music towards, just something beautiful.”

The superstar added that the moniker has a “vacation destination feel,” agreeing with the interviewer that it also has a “Palm Springs in its heyday” vibe. “I was going to Miami quite a lot at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba,” she reiterated to British Vogue in 2011. “Lana Del Rey reminded us of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue.”

The moniker is also inspired by Academy Award-nominated actress Lana Turner, who had a lead role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and starred opposite Clark Gable in multiple films, including Somewhere I’ll Find You. The San Diego Union-Tribune also states that her name is a nod to the Ford Del Rey car that was produced in Brazil and popularized in the 1980s and early 1990s. Additionally, “Del Rey” is the name of a city in California, with actor James Franco praising the New York native’s ability to capture a California sound.

“She grew up on the East Coast but she is an artist of the West Coast,” Franco expressed to V Magazine in 2015. “When I watch her stuff, when I listen to her stuff, I am reminded of everything I love about Los Angeles. I am sucked into a long gallery of Los Angeles cult figurines, and cult people, up all night like vampires and bikers.”

Del Rey’s old school, ethereal sound may also stem from her desire to build a community of people in the entertainment industry.

“I wanted to be part of a high-class scene of musicians,” she recalled in a 2012 interview with Digital Spy about her intent in the music industry. “It was half-inspired because I didn’t have many friends, and I was hoping that I would meet people and fall in love and start a community around me, the way they used to do in the ’60s. I wanted to be seen as a good singer, and not much more than that…I did find it hard to make friends, but it wasn’t because of the people, but because I was sort of a cerebral person, an over-thinker. I was trying to figure out a vision for my future that would make me happy.”

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Variety

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