On Thursday, Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of the Grammy-winning country trio Lady Antebellum released a statement announcing that, “after much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest conversations with some of our closest Black friends and colleagues,” they were dropping “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 by its more benign nickname, Lady A.
While this gesture may have been well intentioned, unfortunately, it turns out that the band’s new moniker is also problematic. The stage name “Lady A” already belongs to a 61-year-old black woman who has released several albums over the past two decades. The Seattle blues singer’s most recent release is Doin' Fine, from 2018, and she has a new record, Lady A: Live in New Orleans, set to come out on July 18.
The original Lady A, whose real name is Anita White, blasted the country group in an Instagram post this Friday, 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. #GodWillFightMyBattle #TheRealLadyA #LadyABluesSoulFunkGospelArtist #TheTruthIsLoud"
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, White revealed that Lady Antebellum didn’t contact her before announcing their name change, which took her completely by surprise. She also noted the irony that the band’s virtue-signaling attempt — as they claimed in their statement — to “practice antiracism” had actually resulted in damaging a veteran black recording artist’s career.
How do you just take someone's name after making a mistake with the one you have @ladya I'm the one True Lady A and have been for over 20 years. You didn't do your homework the first time and now you want to take my professional name and brand. Think again Colonizer pic.twitter.com/fkcnqvstqC
— Lady A (@ladiawhite) June 12, 2020
“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. It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them. 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?”
Now, however, a search for “Lady A” on Spotify — and on Apple Music, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Google — overwhelmingly brings up results for the country band first, thus effectively erasing White’s digital identity.
White told Rolling Stone that she holds a business trademark for Lady A LLC and is planning to speak with an attorney soon to discuss her options. “I don’t know if [they] are going to give me a cease-and-desist. I don’t know how they’d react. But I’m not about to stop using my name,” she insisted. “For them to not even reach out is pure privilege. I’m not going to lay down and let this happen to me. But now the burden of proof is on me to prove that my name is in fact mine, and I don’t even know how much I’ll have to spend to keep it.”
Big Machine, the label of the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum, did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment, and, as of this writing, the group has not addressed the controversy via social media. Rolling Stone reported that a representative for Lady Antebellum claimed that Scott, Haywood and Kelley were unaware that there was another artist by the name Lady A, and that they plan to reach out to White.
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