Earlier this week, country band Lady Antebellum announced—a scant 14 years after adopting it—that they’d suddenly realized that their name might possibly be construed by some people as being in support of the racist, pro-slavery, pre-Civil-War Southern society that it’s long been associated with. (On account of “Antebellum” being its, you know, name.) Rushing—14 years later—to correct this completely unforeseen mistake, the band issued a statement that they’re changing their name to “Lady A,” a frequently used fan nickname for the group. The only problem with this re-branding effort: There’s already a Lady A, she’s been using the name as a blues singer for the last 20 years, and she’s not especially happy about the former Lady Antebellum now moving in on her professional identity.
This is per Rolling Stone, which recently spoke with Anita White, a Seattle musician who’s been performing as “Lady A” for two decades now, including releasing several albums under that name. White says nobody from Lady Antebellum’s organization bothered to contact her before the band switched its name to one duplicating hers, stating that she learned of the change only when she got off work on Thursday, and was informed by numerous friends and colleagues of the news. White, who’s 61, and who got her start as a gospel singer, expressed her frustration with suddenly being forced to have to worry about the legal and copyright aspects of her music career, just because a country band was tired of being yelled at for their questionable choice of title.
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. 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?
When reached for comment by Rolling Stone, the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum stated that it was unaware of White’s music, and was now making plans to reach out to her. Meanwhile, the legal situation regarding the name change seems fairly clear-cut (at least as far as the endlessly complex world of music IP goes, anyway); even if she never trademarked the name “Lady A,” White’s 20 years using it as her commercial performing identity would likely give her a serious leg up if things found their way into a court of law. (Not, hopefully, that that’s where this will eventually end up, since we can’t imagine that the suddenly optics-minded members of No-Longer-Lady-Antebellum really want to wrestle with the image of robbing a Black woman of her musical identity with an ill-thought-out cease-and-desist.)