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A dispute between the country trio formerly known as Lady Antebellum and the Seattle blues singer currently known as Lady A has taken an unexpected and unfriendly turn. While the artists had appeared to come to a preliminary agreement regarding sharing the same stage name, now it seems they are headed to court.
Last month, Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of the country trio Lady Antebellum released a lengthy joint statement announcing that — “after much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest conversations with some of [their] closest Black friends and colleagues” — they were dropping the “Antebellum” from their band name due to “associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery.” Instead, the group would now be known officially by its longtime nickname, Lady A.
Unfortunately, the stage name “Lady A” already belonged to a 61-year-old Black woman, Anita White, who blasted the country group in an Instagram post the day after their name change announcement, saying: “How can you say Black Lives Matter and put your knee on the neck of another Black artist? I’m not mad … I am however not giving up my name, my brand I worked hard for.”
Things seemed to smooth over the following week, however, when the two Lady A’s linked up via Zoom and posted a smiling screenshot of what appeared to be a successful meeting. “Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A. Transparent, honest and authentic conversations were had. We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come,” the band announced. At that time, a representative for the group told Yahoo Entertainment that the two artists were working on an arrangement that would allow them to both “move forward as Lady A.”
However, just a few days later, White told Newsday that the band’s announcement was premature and she was unsatisfied with the draft agreement they’d presented her, saying they were trying to “erase” her. And now it seems negotiations between the lawyers for Lady Antebellum and White — which, according to the band, included the possibility of them collaborating on a new original song — have totally broken down. Billboard reports that the band’s attorneys have filed a lawsuit against White, asking Nashville’s U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee to grant them the right to the trademark “Lady A.” According to the suit, the case arises from White’s “attempt to enforce purported trademark rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade.”
The suit claims that the group has used both the “Lady Antebellum” and “Lady A” names since around 2007, and that they registered “Lady A” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in July 2011 with no opposition. “Prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs’ open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and international use of the LADY A mark as a source indicator for Plaintiffs’ recorded, downloadable, and streaming music and videos, Plaintiffs’ live musical performances, or Plaintiffs’ sale of souvenir merchandise,” the suit states.
A spokesperson for the band tells Yahoo Entertainment that Scott, Haywood and Kelley aren’t “asking anything of Anita White” — they are merely suing to share the name — and provided the following full statement:
“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. 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. It was a stirring in our hearts and reflection on our own blindspots that led us to announce a few weeks ago that we were dropping the word ‘Antebellum’ from our name and moving forward using only the name so many of our fans already knew us by. When we learned that Ms. White had also been performing under the name Lady A, we had heartfelt discussions with her about how we can all come together and make something special and beautiful out of this moment. We never even entertained the idea that she shouldn’t also be able to use the name Lady A, and never will — today’s action doesn’t change that. Instead, we shared our stories, listened to each other, prayed and spent hours on the phone and text writing a song about this experience together. We felt we had been brought together for a reason and saw this as living out the calling that brought us to make this change in the first place. We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to work together with Anita for that greater purpose. We’re still committed to educating ourselves, our children and doing our part to fight for the racial justice so desperately needed in our country and around the world. We’ve only taken the first small steps and will prioritize racial equality as a key pillar of the work of LadyAID, specifically leaning into supporting and empowering our youth. We hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach. We can do so much more together than in this dispute.”
While the band might ultimately prevail in court, in the public court of Twitter, many fans are pointing out the irony that the trio’s original attempt to “practice antiracism” has resulted in their going to battle against a BIPOC artist in a much lower position of power. Others, however, have criticized White (or, more specifically, White’s legal counsel) for being “greedy” instead of reaching an amicable resolution with the country group.
Last month, White told Rolling Stone that she holds a business trademark for Lady A LLC and was planning to speak with an attorney soon to discuss her options. As of this writing, she has not released her own statement regarding this latest development, but the day before the band’s lawsuit filing, she posted an Instagram selfie of her holding up a copy of her new album, Lady A: Live in New Orleans, that is set to come out under the “Lady A” name next week. “Lady A Live in New Orleans NEW CD set to release My Birthday July 18th - Excited In Spite Of..... for No Weapon Formed Against Me Shall prosper,” stated White’s caption.
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