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Lorde's mom: George Brett photo was in Lorde's vintage National Geographic collection

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, at 7:26 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at 10:26 a.m.

Mystery solved!

On Thursday March 20, Sonja Yelich emailed us to say she enjoyed this article about her daughter Ella -- aka Lorde.

And she answered our question about how the teen pop sensation came across a 37-year-old National Geographic magazine, "Ella used to collect vintage National Geographics," her mom told us.


It took a few weeks of research, but National Geographic has confirmed that pop star Lorde was referring to a photo of Kansas City Royals’ baseball legend George Brett when she explained where she got the inspiration for her megahit “Royals.”

In an interview a few months ago with VH1, Lorde (real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor) explained how she “had this image from the National Geographic of this dude just signing baseballs. He was a baseball player and his shirt said, ‘Royals.’

“It was just that word. It’s really cool.”

After The Star wrote a story on Nov. 19 about the interview, an astute reader found a photo that matched the description.

The photo, published in July 1976, shows the star third baseman surrounded by adoring fans and signing baseballs. According to a National Geographic spokeswoman, “this appears to be the only photo in our archives of a Royals baseball player signing autographs.”

How the 17-year-old songstress from New Zealand saw a copy of a 37-year-old magazine is a mystery.

In an interview with nationalgeographic.com last month, photographer Ted Spiegel said he hadn’t heard of the connection between his photo and the song.

Asked about the day he took the photo, he said: “What I remember was sheer adulation. There was one girl who worked in the Kansas City Royals office who had what we would now call a large reaction to George Brett. Her eyes melted just gazing at him. He had star power. He was an all-American in image and in bat.

“All those hands holding the baseballs are adulating fans, and in Lorde’s interview, she talked about how the royals were rock stars in their day. George Brett proved to be a sports star in his day. In 1976, he became the American League batting champion. By 1999, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

Spiegel then went on to explain the assignment he had in Kansas City.

“The July 1976 National Geographic was a great birthday card to our democratic nation. And I was assigned to do two articles specifically for that issue. One was Kansas City, the America of today, and the other one was about George Washington, the founding father who refused to become a royal.

“Do you see the irony of it all?”


To reach Kathy Lu, call 816-234-4394 or send email to klu @kcstar.com.

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