Lana Del Rey
Birth name: Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
Birthplace: New York City, New York
June 21, 1985 – Present
Years Active: October 21, 2008 – present
The daughter of two New York City ad executives, Elizabeth Wooldridge Grant was raised in the small village of Lake Placid, New York. As an adolescent, she grew frustrated with the isolation of Lake Placid, began acting out, and was sent to a boarding school in Connecticut. There, Grant was exposed to the work of writers Walt Whitman, Alan Ginsberg, and Vladimir Nobokov, as well as the music of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. Inspired by such artists and her own disenchantment with high school culture, she began writing her own songs, such as the early “Boarding School” and “Prom Song.”
After moving to New York City for college, Grant entered a songwriting competition, where she caught the attention of the indie label 5 Points Records. 5 Points Records would go on to release her first EP in 2008, Kill Kill, under the name Lizzy Grant. While working on a full album, Grant changed her name to Lana Del Rey and moved to London, where she created her first hit song, “Video Games.” The video for the song – a homemade collage of archival films, news footage, and home videos – became enormously popular and established Del Rey’s aesthetic style.
In 2012, Del Rey released her first LP, Born to Die, along with the EP Paradise. Before her second album, 2014’s Ultraviolence, Del Rey created the short film Tropico, and provided songs for the films The Great Gatsby and Maleficent. After providing another song for the film Big Eyes, Del Rey released Honeymoon in 2015, and Lust for Life in 2017, which earned her a Grammy Nomination. In 2019, she released NFR!, her fifth album.
Del Rey’s influences are widely known – in fact, inked into her skin. On one of her arms, a tattoo reads “Nobokov Whitman,” referring to her literary heroes Vladimir Nobokov and Walt Whitman; on her collarbone a tattoo reads “Nina Billie” referring to singers Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, as well as one reading “Whitney Amy,” in reference to Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse. Throughout her career, Del Rey has covered songs by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Lee Hazlewood, Sublime, and Bobby Vinton, and has referenced musicians such as Lou Reed (who she was to collaborate with, if not for his passing), Neil Young, and The Beatles in her lyrics.
Del Rey’s musical and visual aesthetic often incorporates nostalgic images of 1950s and 1960s America, which directly and indirectly invoke musicians such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, The Beach Boys, Patsy Cline, and Nancy Sinatra.