Many a performer has changed his or her name to benefit their careers. A pseudonym is a fictitious name used by a person, or less often, a group.
Pseudonyms are also known as pen names (for writers), graffiti artists' tags, noms de guerre, (resistance fighters or terrorists) and stage names, for actors, musicians and other performers.
Stage names often were used to mask a person's ethnic backgrounds to avoid prejudices or to differentiate them from other performers with the same or similar names.
Bob Dylan's real is Robert Zimmerman. Around 1960, Zimmerman began introducing himself as "Bob Dylan". In his autobiography, Bob Dylan acknowledged that he had been influenced by the poetry of Dylan Thomas.
Explaining his change of name in a 2004 CBS interview, Dylan said, "You're born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free."
David Bowie was born David Jones. He changed his name to avoid confusion with David (Davy) Jones of The Monkees. It's hard to believe that anyone would ever have confused Bowie and DavyJones, but...
Bowie's debut single, "Liza Jane", was credited to Davie Jones and the King Bees, but had no commercial success. After several bands and singles, he decided to use the name David Bowie after the soldier Jim Bowie and the knife he popularized, and that was the name of his first album.
Though David Bowie has always had a rather androgynous personae as a performer, Wendy Carlos, the American composer and electronic musician, was born as Walter Carlos. Carlos first came to notice in the late 1960s with recordings made on the Moog synthesizer, including the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange.
Carlos underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1972 and was first credited as "Wendy" on Switched-On Brandenburgs in 1979. On her official site, her transition is discussed and she clearly values her privacy on the subject.
Not all pseudonyms have complicated origins. Eminem took the initials of his real name, Marshall Mathers, and rewrote it phonetically.