The white country band formerly known as Lady Antebellum has chosen to show racial “sensitivity” by suing to appropriate the name “Lady A” from Anita White, a black singer who has used the moniker for decades.
Lady Antebellum on June 11 said they would start going by the name Lady A since “antebellum” carried racial connotations, Billboard said. The suit was filed July 8 in Nashville’s U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
The band filed suit after conversations between them and White, a blues singer, broke down. The lawsuit says White’s attorney asked for “an exorbitant monetary demand.” The band said in a statement that amount was $10 million.
The band members’ names are Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood.
White accused the band of white privilege, Rolling Stone said.
How would I have thought to look at the trademark? Why would I have challenged them? They were going by Lady Antebellum before; they weren’t going by Lady A. Anytime I went on Google, I only saw Lady Antebellum; I never saw [them referred to as] Lady A. I was Lady A for 30 years, regardless of whether I have a trademark. This is what kills me about white privilege. Their advantages let them do whatever it is they want to do. They have people in their camp to go out and get these trademarks. I never had that. I managed myself, I booked myself, I put my brand name out there. “Lady A” has been tattooed on my shoulder for over 20 years.
White said she would use half of the $10 million to rebrand and give the other half to charities, including some associated with Black Lives Matter, the Associated Press said.
“I have to rebrand myself. I don’t want to have to share a name with you. And you shouldn’t be allowed to just get a slap on the wrist,” White said. “I wanted my name. All I ever wanted was to keep my name in the blues genre doing what I did. I should not have to bend to (the band’s) will because they’ve got money,” she said.
The band said in the lawsuit that they filed for a trademark to the name “Lady A” in 2010.
Pitchfork quoted White as saying that Lady Antebellum’s “massive rebranding efforts” means her fans cannot find her on streaming services, effectively “erasing” her.
White also discussed the irony of the band’s attempt to distance themselves from a racially loaded word in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Given the way that Hillary, Charles, and Dave have treated me, I am not surprised that they used the name Lady Antebellum for so long or that their cure is to adopt a name that is only less overtly racist. The A in their name stands for Antebellum and always will.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo “Lady A” (right) by Lady A Anita White. Photo “Lady A” (left) by Lady A.