Gene Simmons talked about changing his birth name – Chaim Witz – explaining on Talk Is Jericho (transcribed by UG):
“I remember when I first heard Muhammad Ali come out as Cassius Clay, which I still think is a cool name.
“I understand. ‘My forefathers were slaves.’ Hey, guess what? Me too! You talking to somebody? Yeah, me too! We did the slave thing too for generations. You like those pyramids? Some of our guys were there building.
“So Simmons is my invention, I decided to call myself that because I get to decide some stuff in life. You don’t like your sex? You can even change that. Life should be about choices.
“It literally happened as a singularity. Stanley Eisen [the birth name of Paul Stanley]… I don’t want to tell you his middle name because he’ll get upset, it’s a real funny one [it’s Bert]…
“That’s his given name, you have no choice in your name, your religion, where you’re born and hat country, those are given to you. My way of thinking is whatever choice you’ve had – use it or lose it.
“You’re allowed to pick your own name, you’re allowed to pick your own religion, you’re allowed to pick which country you live in, where you live in and how you lead your life. Those are your choices, because after all, that’s your life.
“You like your family name? Keep it! You don’t like it? Don’t keep it!
“So we were sitting on a subway in New York city, and the realization came in. We’re both Jews… Look, we gave the world the Ten Commandments, that’s as cool as it gets. But in rock ‘n’ roll, Jews? No. It ain’t cool.
“Because being up on stage in a stadium going ‘Chaim, Chaim…’ it’s not gonna fly. Nobody likes… *pronounces harsh ‘H’ sound* … that sound. It’s like cat throwing up a hair ball.
“It’s not a good name anywhere outside Israel, it just doesn’t work. Except when you toast people close to [the Jewish] faith. You say ‘l’chaim.’ ‘L’ means ‘to.’ To life. My name actually means ‘life.’ Or life of prosperity. It’s a positive name.
“But in Zimbabwe it means nothing. Likewise, if you speak Serbian or Zimbabwean, not a good idea for rock ‘n’ roll. When in Rome, do as the Romans. I didn’t come up with that. ‘Dress British, think Yiddish,’ that is mine.
“Which is – who you are and what you are may be beside the point if you’re comfortable inside and understand the essence of you – why not dress differently on the outside? In another words, assimilate to the point that you want to.
“If you want to wear your dashiki 24 hours a day I’m on your side. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world is gonna recognize it or like it. Some will, some will not. That depends on you.
“Me – I like raw power. I want to be worshiped like the god I am, and in some ways I have to make concessions and agree on a common culture and a common language otherwise we’re going back to the tower of Babylon, complete chaos.
“You’re fluent in Serbian, I’m fluent in Hungarian, everybody’s fluent in every other language, and you can’t communicate. You must decide on a way of communication and certain laws. And of course, it’s flexible.
“So the law of Earth is English. It’s the universal language. It wasn’t always. It used to be Spanish and French and other. And English is not my first language, it’s my fourth. So I had to learn the language.
“When I learn the language it is fluent in the sound and the musicality. And that’s the highest respect you an give to culture and to people – speak the fucking language correctly. *imitates strong Spanish accent* ‘I talked like this when I first came here!’
“Make the effort! In return for that you get the nuclear armed forces and the most complete infrastructure the Earth has ever known. Free hospital care, free school, you get all kinds of cool stuff.
“You can make the effort. Or not! Or refuse to learn English, because it’s your right, speak any language you want, but don’t expect jobs and wealth and fame to come to you. It won’t. Because the rest of us are too busy being proud of being German or African or Japanese or whatever. In America – it’s English.
“So I decided to have an American sounding name, not necessarily English. Because American culture rules the planet, not English culture. It’s jeans invented by a Jew named Levi, and blues invented by black former slaves, which begat jazz and rock ‘n’ roll.
“So from black culture you have the music that rules the world, from Jews you have the most popular men’s wear that Earth has ever known, so it’s the cross section of cultures that create this kind of wonderful thing.
“Purebred animals are retarded and they die young, it is only the hybrid – in metal also. If you’re talking about pure gold it’s very soft, you can’t use it for anything. Mix it with other metal and it’s impenetrable.
“So we’re riding on a subway, and Stanley Eizen and Chaim and, at that point, Gene Klein… ‘What are you gonna be?’ ‘I’m gonna be Gene Simmons. And what about you?’ ‘I’m gonna be Paul Stanley.’ Just like that.”