Honorific nicknames in popular music  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Honorific nicknames in popular music are often religious, familial or (most frequently) royal and aristocratic in nature and are used as a form of expression in the media, or to identify the significance of an artist by fans. Honorific nicknames were used in classical music in Europe as early as the early nineteenth century, with figures like Mozart being called "The father of modern music" and Bach "The father of modern piano music". They were also particularly prominent in African American culture in the post-Civil War era, perhaps as a means of conferring status that had been negated by slavery, and as a result entered early jazz and blues music, including figures such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

In American culture, despite its republican constitution and ideology, honorific nicknames have been used to describe leading figures in various areas of activity, such as industry, commerce, sport and the media; father or mother have been used for innovators, and royal titles like king and queen for dominant figures in a field. In the 1930s and '40s, as jazz and swing music were gaining popularity, it was the more commercially successful white artists Paul Whiteman and Benny Goodman who became known as "The King of Jazz" and "The King of Swing" respectively, even though these forms of music originated in African American culture. These patterns of naming were transferred to rock and roll when it emerged in the 1950s. There was a series of attempts to find (and a number of claimants to be) the "King of rock 'n' roll", a title that became most associated with Elvis Presley. This has been seen as part of a process of the appropriation of credit for innovation of the then new music by a white establishment. Different honorifics have been taken or given for other leading figures in the genre, such as "The Architect of Rock and Roll", by Little Richard from the 1990s, but this term, like many, is also used for other important figures, in this case including pioneer electric guitarist Les Paul.

Similar honorific nicknames have been given in other genres, including Aretha Franklin, who was literally crowned "Queen of Soul" by disk jockey Pervis Spann on stage in 1968. Other nicknames have been adopted in direct emulation of these, including Michael Jackson's title "King of Pop" from 1989. Honorific nicknames are often part of a process of marketing and may be adopted or dropped by the press and fans over time. They have been strongly promulgated and contested by various artists and occasionally disowned or played down by their subjects. Some notable honorific nicknames are in general usage and commonly identified with particular individuals.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Honorific nicknames in popular music" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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