On Friday (July 10), blues singer Lady A released a detailed statement giving her side of the breakdown in negotiations between herself and the band Lady Antebellum, who are in the process of rebranding as Lady A. The statement blasts the band for filing a lawsuit against her on Wednesday (July 8) in an effort to trademark the name Lady A, a moniker they hope to share with her.
The conflict began on June 11 when Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood announced they were officially changing their band name from Lady Antebellum to their nickname Lady A. “Antebellum” refers to the pre-Civil War South, a period when slavery fueled agricultural prosperity for white Southerners; the term is typically used with a sense of romantic nostalgia. Looking to distance themselves from the fraught connotations of “antebellum” as the United States grapples with ongoing racial injustices, the country music trio – who formed in 2006 – inadvertently took the performance name of Anita White, a blues singer who has been using “Lady A” for thirty-some years.
Since the band’s rebranding announcement, a series of phone calls and texts were exchanged between the two parties as they attempted to find a mutually acceptable compromise. While the band hoped both parties could share the name Lady A, White believes that “co-existence will simply not work,” arguing that fans will be forced to “struggle” to find information about her and her music “due to Lady Antebellum’s massive rebranding efforts.”
After much back and forth, White proposed a $10 million economic settlement. The band’s response was to file trademark lawsuit in a Nashville court on July 8.
“I asked for $5 million to compensate me for this loss, and to help me rebuild under a new name. I also asked that they donate $5 million to a charity so that we could work together to promote racial equality. It was my impression from our communications that this would appeal to Hillary, Charles, and Dave. I guess I was wrong,” White said.
The band’s lawsuit referred to that $10 million figure as “an exorbitant monetary demand,” pointing out that Lady Antebellum successfully registered a trademark for “Lady A” for entertainment purposes as far back as 2011. Their lawsuit doesn’t seek money, but a legal affirmation that they can use the name.
White, however, sees the band’s rebranding campaign as an “erasure” of her career. “It is absurd that Lady Antebellum has chosen to show its commitment to racial equality by taking the name of a Black woman,” White said. “It is particularly painful to me, as a Black woman, to lose my name in THIS time and place so Lady Antebellum can use it as shorthand to celebrate a time and place connected to and very heavily reliant upon slavery.”
Lady A (the band) had no comment on the singer Lady A’s latest statement.
Read Anita White’s full statement below.
July 10, 2020, Seattle, WA
I first heard about Lady Antebellum’s planned name change after they went public on June 11, 2020, at which point I was shocked and taken aback. During initial calls with the members of the band – Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood – I hoped that we could reach an agreement that left both sides whole. Lady Antebellum understood that their use of “Antebellum” was offensive and that their adoption of Lady A harms me, as I have been using the name professionally for over 30 years.
Though they recognized their impact, Lady Antebellum has not been receptive to my proposals for correcting their infringement, unfortunately. It has already been demonstrated why co-existence will simply not work. My fans used to be able to listen to my music on streaming services; now they struggle to find me. Due to Lady Antebellum’s massive rebranding efforts, Lady Antebellum has erased me from every platform. Lady Antebellum has used their wealth and influence to intimidate and bully me into submission without offering any real recompense for appropriating my name. It is now clear that their apologies, friendly texts, and playing on my love of God were just insincere gestures aimed at quieting me. Well, I will not be quiet any longer.
After being called out for taking my name, Lady Antebellum and their team of publicists and attorneys are doing what many folks of privilege do when asked to cease and desist bad behavior. Hillary, Charles, and Dave are attempting to change the narrative by minimizing my voice and belittling my experience as an artist – as if having a lot of money gives them permission to tread on my rights. I have worked too long and too hard to just give my name away.
The band’s decision to change their name to Lady A follows the trend of many other groups and organizations working to distance themselves from racism in the wake of the uprisings in this post-George Floyd world. Someone finally told them – or perhaps they knew all along and didn’t care until now – that their name reminds Black folks of just how much was taken from us in the past: our lives, freedom, languages, families, and, yes, our names. It is absurd that Lady Antebellum has chosen to show its commitment to racial equality by taking the name of a Black woman, particularly in this time when we are reminded every day to “Say Her Name.” It is one more demonstration of what continues to be taken away from us in the present. 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. If they are truly committed to racial equality, why do they want to maintain that association, especially when it means making a public, intentional stand to disregard me and my rights?
Lady A is my identity – and it has been since 1987. I want to be able to freely use my brand that I spent decades building. I do not want to part with it. It is particularly painful to me, as a Black woman, to lose my name in THIS time and place so Lady Antebellum can use it as shorthand to celebrate a time and place connected to and very heavily reliant upon slavery. I asked for $5 million to compensate me for this loss, and to help me rebuild under a new name. I also asked that they donate $5 million to a charity so that we could work together to promote racial equality. It was my impression from our communications that this would appeal to Hillary, Charles, and Dave. I guess I was wrong.
Their refusal to come to an agreement that would be respectful of my work and my rights, however, has given me the clarity and the drive to not back down. Black lives, names, experiences, work, art – they all matter. Fellow independent artists have reached out to me to share their stories of name feuds that they lost because they were on the opposite side of big money and privilege. Not only will I not be one of them, but I am hopeful that this fight for what is rightfully mine will help those damaged by this type of bullying and erasure in the past, and that it will prevent it from happening in the future. I will not allow Lady Antebellum to obliterate me and my career so they can look “woke” to their fans.