Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Meddows-Taylor

Today is Roger’s 62nd birthday and what better day to discuss his double-barrelled last name than on the anniversary of his name coming into effect.

I remember reading the liner notes from my Queen album and noticed that Roger had a hyphenated last name, which was different than how the other three band members were credited. What was more puzzling to my 13-year-old mind, though, was why a man would have a hyphenated name at all? 

Here in North America, hyphenated names were a rarity. The only person I recall having a double-name was a woman . . . Farrah Fawcett-Majors back in the mid-70s. Now, of course, there are numerous reasons for hyphenating (for women, men, and children), and if hyphenating becomes problematic linguistically, families can opt for a portmanteau last name, where an entirely new surname is created from the syllables of the two or more family surnames.

As I researched surname traditions around the world for this blog entry, I came across many heated discussions going on in regards to women’s motives for hyphenating their name or choosing to keep their birth name upon marriage. It would seem that what a woman chooses to call herself is a call to arms for many patriarchal-focused men.

Over the past twenty years or so, I’ve become acutely aware of the naming tradition in many European countries to have hyphenated last names, including men: John Rhys-Davies, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tim Piggott-Smith, or even the Mountbatten-Windsors. According to one Wikipedia article on the double-barreled surname tradition, it’s a matter of prestige in carrying a privileged family name that’s been (usually patrilineally) descended for many generations. Many times, it signals a pedigree that can be used to one’s advantage in certain circles. This approach has been criticized as pretentious, however, so many individuals choose to go solo in this regard.

So what reasoning did Roger have for going with the double-barreled surname on that first album? Here is what I could muster up recently:

“Queen drummer Roger Meddows Taylor was born on Tuesday, July 26, 1949 at the West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, to Winifred and Michael Taylor. Michael was an inspector for the Potato Marketing Board. ‘Meddows’ was a family name that had been passed down [to] successive Taylor generations, and it was subsequently passed on to Roger as a middle name.”

But why drop it, then? Here’s what another Roger bio site had to say:

“Queen’s first album, called just Queen and issued on EMI in the UK on 13 July 1973, was the only one to hold Roger Taylor’s name in its long version — Roger Meddows-Taylor. Then he opted out of that family name and became Roger Taylor. That was better in some way and also worse, because we have now a musician, Roger Taylor, drummer of Duran Duran. We also have a writer Roger Taylor. And other Roger Taylors. So I decided to call my site Roger Meddows-Taylor's just not to make anyone confused. Besides, I like the name Meddows-Taylor, just because I like double names. As for now I only have one.”

Did he want to avoid being labelled as pretentious? I don’t know. I do get the impression, however, that he’s not that invested or interested in a double-identity anymore. I would be curious to know — apart from their unique first names — if any of his children have the Meddows surname formally passed down to them as an homage to his generational line. 

Whatever the case, happy birthday Roger.



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