For many, Lady Gaga is an icon.
The glamorous pop star. known for her dance songs and shape-shifting ability, rose to the pinnacle of stardom and was able to stay there. She’s even won an Oscar for her recent forays into acting. What can’t she do?
But what about her debut and where did she get that stage name from?
Without further ado, let’s explore the origins of Lady Gaga and her nickname.
Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986 in Manhattan, New York. Later, as a student, she studied at Collaborative Arts Project 21, part of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. But she dropped out to pursue a career in music soon after enrolling.
She signed with Def Jam Recordings but the company canceled her contract and later worked as a songwriter for Sony/ATV Music Publishing, where she signed a deal with Interscope Records and singer Akon’s label KonLive Distribution in 2007 .
In 2008, she released her first studio album, Fame, and rose to fame with hit singles like “Just Dance” and “Poker Face”. In 2009, she released the EP, The Glory Monster, which produced three hit singles. Today, she has sold over 125 million albums and appeared in major films such as A star is born and Gucci House.
Germanotta was born into an upper-middle-class Catholic family. She started playing the piano at age four when her mother insisted that she become “a cultured young woman”. These lessons taught her to create music by ear, which she preferred to reading sheet music. As a teenager, she played open mics. She has also played many roles on stage, including the role of Adelaide in the play guys and dolls.
Regarding her passion for music, she said, “I don’t know exactly where my affinity for music comes from, but it’s what comes most easily to me. When I was about three I was maybe even younger my mom always tells this really embarrassing story of me standing up and playing keys like that because I was too young and too small to go up ‘here.
“Go like this on the bottom of the piano…I was really, really good at the piano, so my first instincts were to work so hard to practice the piano, and I might not have been a natural dancer, but I am a natural musician. It’s the thing I think I’m best at.
In 2005, she recorded two songs with hip-hop star Melle Mel for an audiobook. In 2006, Gaga performed at a New Songwriters Showcase at the Cutting Room where talent scout Wendy Starland recommended her to music producer Rob Fusari. The two started working together, combining pop and dance music. And, as legend has it, he was the first person to call her “Lady Gaga,” which comes from the queen’s song, “Radio Ga Ga.”
In 2009, Gaga toured as the opening act for the Pussycat Dolls’ “Doll Domination Tour” in Europe. Later, she titled her own tour, “The Fame Ball Tour”.
Queen’s 1984 single was written by the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor. The song was originally released as a single with “I Go Crazy” as the B-side. Later, the song was included on the LP, The works. As a single, the song reached No. 1 in 19 countries and No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. It reached #16 in the United States. Queen performed it at every gig from 1984 until their last show with singer Freddie Mercury in 1986, including the band’s famous show at Live Aid in 1985.
The artist’s biography, Lady Gaga: Queen of Pop, confirms the story. Germanotta took the name “Lady Gaga” from Queen’s song “Radio Ga Ga,” the book explains. Subsequently, she released her first album in 2008, Fame.
Prior to her first outing, Gaga was so confident in her name that she practically shouted it from the rooftops. Although she had a recording contract and recorded songs, some radio stations found her music too dance-oriented and even “racy”. This led the artist to say, “My name is Lady Gaga, I’ve been in the music scene for years, and I’m telling you, this is the next step.”
With her new name, Gaga learned that she could attract attention, in part because of the nickname. Today, the 36-year-old Manhattan-born musician is on top of the world.
Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy