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.
New Perspectives on The Great Gatsby’s Daisy Buchanan
Does Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” help humanize Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby?
“Alright” and the History of Black Protest Songs
How have black artists throughout the 20th century used music to speak about racial injustice in America?
The Music of the Civil Rights Movement
How did popular music reflect the values of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and help the movement convey its message?
Debating Dylan’s Nobel Prize
What are the arguments for and against Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature?
Folk Music, Rock and Roll Attitude
How did Bob Dylan’s early experiences with Folk and Rock and Roll music influence his songwriting?
Dylan as Poet
How did Bob Dylan merge poetry with popular music?
The New York City Underground
How did New York bands interact with the city's art scene to create something new?
Singer-Songwriters and the Environmental Movement
How did the singer-songwriters of the 1960s and 70s address the concerns of the environmental movement?
The Beatles Work Towards Success
How did The Beatles' rigorous work schedule during the years 1960-63 build their strengths as performers, as musicians, and as a band?
The Beatles and American Segregation
How did the Beatles take a stand against segregation while touring America? And what did it mean for popular music culture?
The Beatles and Teen Culture
How did the Beatles’ image as a “rock band” affect young people in America?
The Beatles, a New Kind of Star
How did The Beatles establish a new paradigm for the image of "the star," and how did that image support their global success?
Liverpool: The Birthplace of the Beatles
How did growing up in post-WWII Liverpool influence the Beatles?
The Teamwork Behind the Beatles
How did the input of manager Brian Epstein and record producer George Martin help The Beatles develop and refine skills that aided the band in presenting their music and personalities to a mass audience?
“Twist and Shout” and Post-War Britain
What role did cover songs like “Twist and Shout” play early in the Beatles's career, and how did their experiences growing up in post-WWII Liverpool and performing in Hamburg nightclubs help them to develop as a professional musical ensemble?
What were the factors that contributed to the rise of Beatlemania?
Rock and Roll and the American Dream
What is the American Dream and how did Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash personify its ideals?
Elvis and Race in 1950s America
How did Elvis Presley’s early career reflect race relations and racial tensions in mid-1950s America?
The Musical Roots of the Surf Sound
What is the Surf sound and where did it come from?
The Sound of the Suburbs
How did the music of the Beach Boys reflect the suburbanization of postwar America?