Seattle blues singer Anita White, known professionally for decades as Lady A, got thrust into the spotlight earlier this year when the country trio Lady Antebellum shortened its name to Lady A to distance itself from the pre-Civil War connotations of the term Antebellum.
As Amy X. Wang and Ethan Millman reported in June for Rolling Stone, this decision caught flak from the original Lady A.
"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."
White addresses what's since become a legal battle involving the trio of Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott in new song "My Name is All I Got."
Her musical response thanks Margo Price for suggesting that the Grand Ole Opry book "the real Lady A" during Price's July appearance at the Opry House. As White puts it in song, "that's what true allyship looks like." She also namedrops Chris Stapleton for his vocal support of Black Lives Matter.
White goes on to explain why no one should be allowed to erase her professional identity: "You take our culture, our music, our artistry. Leave us our name. Because you know what? Sometimes it's all we've got."
Both sides seemed to have found common ground following a June 15 Zoom chat involving the country group Lady A and the blues singer Lady A.
"Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A. Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had," wrote country music's 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, 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."
On Sept. 15, White filed another lawsuit which claims that she holds "common law rights" to a moniker she used in the early '90s, years before the trio'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."