Earlier this week, the Grammy-winning country music trio Lady Antebellum announced that they had changed their name to Lady A in the middle of heightened conversation and protests in the United States about racism. The group explained that they were “embarrassed” by the word “antebellum” because of its connection to slavery in the pre-war American South.
However, the name change was quite the news to Seattle blues singer Lady A, who found out from family and friends that her name had been stolen by the Need You Now singers.
— CISN Country 103.9 (@CISNCountry) June 13, 2020
Seattle’s Lady A is a 61-year-old black woman whose real name is Anita White. She says that she’s been performing under that name for more than 20 years, and that is her brand.
“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,” she told Rolling Stone, while getting emotional. “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 says that no one from Lady Antebellum’s team reached out to her before they changed their band name, and all it would have taken was for them to do some research.
“I’m not about to stop using my name. For them to not even reach out is pure privilege,” says White.
White started performing as Lady A during karaoke nights in the 1980s, she also performed with a Motown Revue band. And, in addition to her day job with Seattle Public Utilities, she has released multiple albums under the name. Her latest album, Lady A: Live in New Orleans, is scheduled to be released on her birthday: July 18.
Lady Antebellum has already rebranded into Lady A on their website, on social media, and on Spotify and Apple Music. White says she is frustrated that she has been completely left out, and she finds it ironic that a trio of white musicians is taking a name from a female black musician to support racial equality.
— The Last SOB®️ (@CraigsBS) June 13, 2020
“It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them,” says White. “If it did, they would’ve done some research. And I’m not happy about that. You found me on Spotify easily — why couldn’t they?”
A rep for Lady Antebellum says that the band had no idea there was another artist that went by Lady A, but now that it has been brought to their attention they plan to reach out.
Music attorney Bob Celestin – who has represented Missy Elliot and Pusha T – says that if Anita White has a trademark of the name “Lady A” registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, then she has a lawsuit on her hands. If not, Lewis says there is still a common law trademark where White could prove that she has been using the name for years via tour flyers, posters, and records.
“She is first to use the mark in commerce, so that gives her a superior right to the name,” says Celestin.
However, since they work in two different musical genres, all artists could reach a coexistence agreement to allow both the blues singer and the country trio to use the name by acknowledging that there is little chance for confusion.
Anita White says that she does have a business trademark for Lady A LLC, and she is planning on contacting her attorney to discuss her legal options.