James Brown: No, I'm not the Godfather of Soul...

I doubt James Brown of Georgia spends his days being asked if he has ever edited 'loaded'

Share

Unless you're a fan of snooker or HP Sauce you might wonder what I'm going on about here, but please bear with me. Last week I had my name stolen. The legendary snooker player Jimmy White was hired by the legendary sauce company HP to change his name by deed poll to James Brown. As they were sponsoring the brown ball in the recent Masters Snooker Tournament, they thought it only fitting to push the promotion further.

Unless you're a fan of snooker or HP Sauce you might wonder what I'm going on about here, but please bear with me. Last week I had my name stolen. The legendary snooker player Jimmy White was hired by the legendary sauce company HP to change his name by deed poll to James Brown. As they were sponsoring the brown ball in the recent Masters Snooker Tournament, they thought it only fitting to push the promotion further.

My initial thoughts were, well if you're going to share your name with anyone it might as well be an icon like The Whirlwind White. I also assumed the fuss would die down after a day or two. However, because the broadcast media refused to call Jimmy by his new name, the matter threatened to turn into a legal tussle, and the issue began to achieve far more publicity than the initial name change.

By now I had to accept that I was down to number three on the list of James Browns. Ever since I was 17 and some students asked me if my parents "had been fans of the Godfather of Soul", I have enjoyed and endured a daily reminder that there is a great soul singer from Georgia who I share my name with. Having started my career in music journalism, this was initially helpful: people remembered my name; but after about five years of daily yelps of "Get Down!", "Sex machine" and so on, it began to pale. I was never particularly annoyed, however, and it served as a good way of knowing how interesting a conversation was going to be with someone when they opened with a reference to the other James.

Last Saturday night I met a musician called William Blake, so I know I'm not alone in this. All over the world, in fact, there are people who unintentionally share their monikers with superstars, politicians, soap actors and so on. When I worked at NME, we had a section called Not THE Frank Zappa - to which readers with famous names sent in their pictures.

For me, the association has been so relentless that I eventually gave in and named my company I Feel Good, and I acquiesced when a newspaper asked me to interview the great man - he never once let on we shared the name. I somehow doubt James Brown of Georgia spends his days being asked whether he has ever edited loaded. We have twice though been booked into a hotel at the same time. At others I have had to encounter the disappointment on the faces of maître d's and hotel managers, who had thought they had the far more famous and talented James Brown staying with them, only to find out it was a white boy from Yorkshire.

And now I have once again had my name diluted by a marketing move. As brand extensions go, it has certainly been effective. In business, if one company fancied another's name they would do a merger or acquire the business; but so far neither I nor the Godfather of Soul have even been offered a bottle of sauce, never mind share options in HP. Their move does feel tantamount to brand theft. In a commercial world driven by advertising, brand protection is rife. If I were to change my name tomorrow to HP Sauce, they'd be all over me. Sticky, to say the least.

You cannot, I believe, escape your own personality by changing your name. Gazza tried this by renaming himself G8 and the musician Prince re-branded himself Symbol, neither move helped; but then again naming yourself after a summit for world leaders when you are a retired footballer, or creating a logo that looks like a bad children's drawing of a fish is ill-advised.

I do, as a matter of fact, like my name, but unfortunately so does Jimmy White. However, there must be even more confusion if you are called something like David Smith. I assume you can only take solace in the fact you are not called Cyril Smith. At the opposite end of the spectrum if you are called Peregrine Worsthorne or Amanda Huggenkiss you are unlikely to find another person timesharing your name/brand. If you do. I suggest you either become friends or sue each other for maximum publicity and then sell the brand to someone called David Smith.

While this name confusion pales into insignificance compared to the many serious issues in the world, I do feel as though some sort of personal burglary has taken place. To have your name liberated is disconcerting; I didn't put mine down for some identity timeshare. I, for one, would never change my name.

Our names are the first things we learn: when you are unconscious, paralytic and confused, they use the phrase "didn't even know his own name" to signify complete helplessness. If the Government were to encourage famous sports stars and celebrities to steal ordinary people's names, it might see a shift in support for the ID card scheme.

Like webmail addresses. We could be numbered next to our names to register our popularity. For now, I have to accept I've been relegated to number three on the list of James Browns. Still it could be worse, I could have been called George Bush or Harold Shipman.

james.brown@independent.co.uk

The writer James Brown is neither a snooker player nor a soul singer

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?