On Tuesday, the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum filed a lawsuit against the Blues singer Lady A, asking a Nashville court to grant them the trademark of the name ‘Lady A’.
The fight over ‘Lady A’ began in June when Lady Antebellum decided after 14 whole years of having a blatantly racist name that it was finally time to make a change. However, the band clearly failed to do their research before announcing the name change, because they were soon informed that Lady A was actually already the stage name of one Anita White, a Black blues singer based in Chicago. Instead of taking the incredibly logical step of... choosing another name (off Jezebel’s list of suggestions I would vote for ‘Three Whites and a Guitar’), the band decided to try to negotiate with White in order to share ownership of the name.
However, after White was unwilling to allow Lady Antebellum to use her stage name without significant compensation, the band decided that the best reflection of their commitment to becoming allies of the Black community was to file a lawsuit against her. Wow. If only everyone was so committed to the fight against racism that they decided to sue a Black performer because she wouldn’t let them use her stage name for free.
In an interview with Vulture, Anita White spoke about her conversations with Lady Antebellum over usage of the name Lady A.
“The first contract they sent [on June 30] had no substance,” she explains. “It said that we would coexist and that they would use their best efforts to assist me on social-media platforms, Amazon, iTunes, all that. But what does that mean? I had suggested on the Zoom call that they go by the Band Lady A, or Lady A the Band, and I could be Lady A the Artist, but they didn’t want to do that.”
During the first meeting between Lady Antebellum and White, the band repeatedly asked to take a picture they could post on social media—there is nothing quite as transparently self-serving as a “look, we know a Black person!” photo opp. The band wanted to record a song with White and to document the whole process, so they had proof to show they were committed to “unity.”
However, some of the damage had already been done. White says that even in the few weeks since the band’s announcement, her name (and music) has become more difficult to find on both search engines and music streaming platforms—even making it difficult for her to upload a recent single to an independent distribution service. The very act of Lady Antebellum changing their name without first making any efforts to reach out to Anita White was an attempt to erase her.
“I was quiet for two weeks because I was trying to believe that it was going to be okay and that they would realize that it would be easier to just change their name, or pay me for my name,” White says. “Five million dollars is nothing, and I’m actually worth more than that, regardless of what they think. But here we go again with another white person trying to take something from a Black person, even though they say they’re trying to help. If you want to be an advocate or an ally, you help those who you’re oppressing. And that might require you to give up something because I am not going to be erased.”