Given the existence of the well-known song "Hey Joe", by Jimi Hendrix, one called 'Hey John' would likely bring to mind some kind of parody.

How crucial, however, though might the choice of the titular name in the original song have been in how listeners relate to the song? Does just this single variable, the name of the character that the singer addresses, carry any tacit cultural parameters for audiences that speak to a deeper meaning in comparison to other names?

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    Hi @jcage, welcome to Music Fans SE. This is an interesting question, but perhaps too broad or opinion-based to be kept open. Perhaps it will help if you can express why or how this question arose in your mind? Do you have some other examples where such a singular change makes (or could make) a difference to the listener? Meanwhile, do go through the tour to be sure of what we consider on-topic. :) – Brahadeesh Apr 7 '19 at 20:25
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    Thank you @Brahadeesh this is helpful. I'll try to think of ways to revise or make it more concrete – jcage Apr 7 '19 at 20:33

There's a substantial amount of evidence that your name can actually have an impact on your life choices, so names clearly aren't just arbitrary. In this case, it may be hard to trace any definitive connections, but let us make the effort. If the name makes a difference, it could be either based on the sounds or the connotations --or the connotations of the sounds. So let's analyze those:

There may be no "Hey John," but as a counterexample, we can take The Premiere's "Farmer John". Could the title characters be interchanged?

  • The sound: "Joe" and "John" are both one syllable words, but "Joe" ends in a vowel, which makes it better suited to being sung on an extended note, as in "Hey Joe." In "Farmer John," the name is sung in a short staccato syllable.

  • Connotations: "John" and "Joe" are both incredibly common names, with variants in use all across the world. "John Doe" and "Joe Bloggs" are both generic names used to mean an everyman. But John is an actual stand alone name, while "Joe" is typically a nickname. "Joe" is also often used in playful coinages like "Joe Cool." That makes "Joe" seem a bit more casual and intimate. "John" seems, to me, to be a bit more of a solid, stolid citizen --more of a farmer than a crime-of-passion murderer, if you will.

  • The connotations of the sounds: "John" is sometimes used to mean a toilet, and is also sometimes used to mean the customer of a prostitute. I don't think either of those connotations comes into play here. I'm not aware of any common alternate meanings for "Joe." So this seems like a bit of a dead end.

In summary, I'd say it's "Joe", not "John," partly because of the more apt sound of the name (for singing), and also because "Joe" is more casual and unpredictable than solid citizen "John."

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  • I had similar thoughts on reading the question, but you’ve expressed it much better than I could have. :) – Brahadeesh Apr 10 '19 at 17:45
  • excellent answer – jcage Apr 12 '19 at 11:17

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