Behind the Meaning and History of the Band’s Name: Sublime

For those who grew up in the 90s, the group Sublime probably has a special meaning.

The band were ubiquitous on the radio and boast more hit songs than one can remember, from “What I Got” (and its popular acoustic version), “Santeria” and “Wrong Way”, to ” Pawn Shop”, “Caress Me Down”, and “Badfish”, among many others.

With their signature brand and blend of LA punk, ska and reggae, the band, fronted by frontman, lead vocalist and lead songwriter Bradley Nowell, could be heard at every party from Boston to San Francisco. throughout the decade.

But where does his sublime name come from, and what was the meaning of this specific choice? Let’s investigate here, shall we?


Sublime hails from Long Beach, California. The band was officially formed in 1988 and consisted of Nowell, bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh. The group was completed by Nowell’s now infamous Dalmatian dog, Lou Dog, named after Nowell’s grandfather, Louie.

While the band seemed to be on the radio 24 hours a day, they only released three LPs, including 40 oz. to Freedom (1992), Robbin’ the Hood (1994) and the eponymous Gorgeous (1996).

Nowell’s death

Unfortunately for Sublime fans, Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996 before the release of the band’s third (and most successful) album. The group broke up and later reformed as the Long Beach Dub Allstars, which enjoyed some success in subsequent years.

The sound of the group

Known for their mix of reggae rock, ska punk, and even a bit of hip-hop sprinkled in, the band enjoyed both critical and popular success. Gorgeous peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 and spawned the group’s only No. 1 hit, “What I Got”.

As of 2022, the band has sold over 20 million albums worldwide.

The name

There isn’t much information about where the band’s name came from, probably because it was a simple decision to begin with. The word is an adjective which, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “high, grand, or exalted in thought, expression, or manner.” Also: “exceptional spiritual, intellectual or moral value”.

It is a descriptive word that is equivalent to praise. So why wouldn’t a band be called that? Similar to Nirvana, another high quality word.

But beyond the name itself, there are stories about what happened to her after Nowell’s death.

Similar to Nirvana, in fact, the members of the group did not want to continue performing under the name Sublime without their leader. In fact, Jason Westfall, one of Sublime’s managers, reportedly stated that “the surviving members of Sublime had no interest in continuing to perform and record under the name ‘Sublime.’ Much like Nirvana, Sublime died when Brad died.

Later incarnations

In 2009, the surviving members decided to reform the band with frontman Rome Ramirez, a young guitarist and fan of the band from California. However, that effort was shattered shortly after performing at Cypress Hill’s Smokeout Festival when a judge in Los Angeles banned the roster from using the nickname as they needed permission from the estate of Nowell, who officially owns the rights to the name.

This led to the lineup of Wilson, Gaugh and Ramirez changing the name to “Sublime with Rome”. Since then they have released three albums (although Gaugh left the band after the band dropped their 2011 debut, Yours sincerely).

Final Thoughts

Although Nowell has been dead for over 25 years now, the band still lives on with their many hits. A quick look at YouTube, for example, shows songs with tens of millions of views, probably totaling over a billion streams by now, even though Nowell died before people even knew what he was doing. was the internet.

It’s stamina. It is, yes, name recognition.

About Joan J. Hernandez

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