Music

Blues Singer Lady A Wants Her Day in Court With Country's Lady A: 'I Feel Myself Getting Erased'

Lady A, Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

The artists formerly known as Lady Antebellum upset some fans while drawing praise from others with its June 11, 2020 decision to shorten its name to Lady A. Per a statement from the band, the name change happened because Antebellum means "occurring or existing before a particular war, especially the Civil War," causing concerns about racial insensitivity.

However, as Amy X. Wang and Ethan Millman reported at the time for Rolling Stone, this decision caught flak from the original Lady A, a Seattle-based blues singer named Anita White.

"This is my life. Lady A is my brand, I've used it for over 20 years and I'm proud of what I've done," White told Rolling Stone. "This is too much right now. They're using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn't have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it."

One year later, White told Rolling Stone in a follow-up report that she's still "waiting for my day in court" because the trio "dug their heels in" regarding its use of the Lady A moniker.

"The folks who made the statement that Black lives mattered to them and the reasoning behind changing their name, I don't want anybody to ever forget that. That is another reason for me to stay in my position and stand up for myself," White says. "It's an insult to me as a musician and as a Black woman that you would say that Black lives matter and that you'd change your name but you didn't really, and after a year we're still in the same position.

"Real justice would have been very simple for them to just change their name," White continues. "That would have been simple for both of us. It really doesn't cost them a dime, doesn't cost me a dime."

Per Rolling Stone, if a settlement isn't reached by 2022, this legal matter will go to trial in Tennessee.

Both sides seemed to have found common ground following a June 15, 2020 Zoom chat involving the country group Lady A and the soul singer Lady A.

"Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A. Transparent, honest and authentic conversations were had," wrote the country trio Lady A. "We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come."

Yet on July 8, 2020, Billboard reported that the former Lady Antebellum filed a lawsuit in Nashville's U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee over White's "attempt to enforce purported trademarks rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade."

"Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended," the group said in a statement. "She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years."

In the newest Rolling Stone feature, White addressed the legal matter continuing beyond an "authentic conversation."

"All that crying and blubbering and they were doing and talking about how much they didn't want to harm me, that doesn't speak true," White said. "I said it was going to happen and now I feel myself getting erased."

On Sept. 15, 2020, White filed another lawsuit which claims that she holds "common law rights" to a name she used in the early '90s, years before the country group's 2006 founding.

"Ms. White possesses superior common law trademark rights, which precede the existence of Defendants' band, let alone their alleged LADY A mark," the suit claims (as quoted by Today), adding internet searches for "Lady A" are "dominated" by references to the group. "Lady Antebellum's popularity and resources have enabled them to saturate the market with their LADY A mark and overwhelm the brand identity that Ms. White has developed during decades of use."

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Before things got litigious, White thanked the press, social media users and others for her recent influx of free publicity.

"I had an audience and a fan base before this. I have CD's out before this. I've toured before this," she told CBS News. "This will only make it better."

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Blues Singer Lady A Wants Her Day in Court With Country's Lady A: 'I Feel Myself Getting Erased'