When country music trio Lady Antebellum announced last month that they were changing their name to Lady A due to the word “antebellum” being tied to slavery, it was a big surprise to blues singer Anita White, who has been performing in Seattle as Lady A for more than 20 years.
According to People magazine, both Lady Antebellum and Lady A had a discussion about “continued coexistence” where both musical acts could perform under the moniker Lady A.
“If they’re saying they’re an ally, they are lying to the American public.” In an explosive new interview, Anita "Lady A" White shares her side about what happened with the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum before and after their lawsuit against her https://t.co/sLnlWc1mXT pic.twitter.com/lcIlNV6Nzr
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) July 10, 2020
But now, the country band has decided that they want the name all to themselves and have filed a lawsuit against White in Nashville’s U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
The trio claims that White’s attorney “delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand” after they discussed the “continued coexistence.” A specific dollar amount wasn’t included in the new lawsuit, but the band says that White asked for $10 million in exchange for both parties continuing to perform as Lady A.
The new Lady A – which features Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood – said in a 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.”
The band formerly known as Lady Antebellum changed its name to Lady A, saying it was "regretful and embarrassed" by the term's racist history.
The band is now suing Anita White—a Black artist who says she's used the stage name Lady A for almost 20 years.https://t.co/3y6p0QFnYL
— NPR (@NPR) July 9, 2020
The band went on to say that it was a “stirring” in their hearts and “reflection” in their own blindspots that prompted their announcement that they would drop the word “Antebellum” from their name. Moving forward, they decided to go by Lady A because many of their fans already knew them by that name.
The trio says that when they found out White had been performing under the name Lady A, they had “heartfelt discussions” with her about how they could all come together and make something special and beautiful out of this moment.
Scott, Kelley, and Haywood insist that they never entertained the idea that White shouldn’t be able to use the name Lady A, and they never will. They say that their lawsuit doesn’t change that fact.
“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,” said Lady A.
View this post on Instagram
Dear Fans, As a band, we have strived for our music to be a refuge…inclusive of all. We’ve watched and listened more than ever these last few weeks, and our hearts have been stirred with conviction, our eyes opened wide to the injustices, inequality and biases Black women and men have always faced and continue to face everyday. Now, blindspots we didn’t even know existed have been revealed. After much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest conversations with some of our closest Black friends and colleagues, we have decided to drop the word “antebellum” from our name and move forward as Lady A, the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start. When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern “antebellum” style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us…Southern Rock, Blues, R&B, Gospel and of course Country. But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before The Civil War, which includes slavery. We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued. Causing pain was never our hearts’ intention, but it doesn’t change the fact that indeed, it did just that. So today, we speak up and make a change. We hope you will dig in and join us. We feel like we have been Awakened, but this is just one step. There are countless more that need to be taken. We want to do better. We are committed to examining our individual and collective impact and making the necessary changes to practice antiracism. We will continue to educate ourselves, have hard conversations and search the parts of our hearts that need pruning—to grow into better humans, better neighbors. Our next outward step will be a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative through LadyAID. Our prayer is that if we lead by example…with humility, love, empathy and action…we can be better allies to those suffering from spoken and unspoken injustices, while influencing our children & generations to come.
The band continued by saying they were disappointed they wouldn’t be able to work with White for that “greater purpose.” Lady A promises that they are committed to educating themselves and their children, and they will do their part to fight for the racial justice that is “so desperately needed in our country and around the world.”
In the lawsuit, Lady A’s legal team claims that the band discussed “various forms of cooperation” with White so that they could “peacefully coexist.” And, they all talked about writing a song together.
However, the band’s attorney claims that White told Newsday she was “not happy” about the agreement that was drafted for both parties to continue using the Lady A name. And, she claimed “their camp is trying to erase me…Trust is important and I no longer trust them.”
After the discussions between the band and the jazz singer – and after they drafted the agreement – White changed attorneys. This is when Lady A claims that White demanded $10 million to cooperate with the agreement.
The band Lady A — formerly Lady Antebellum — has filed a lawsuit against a Black woman who has performed with the name Lady A for the past 2 decades. https://t.co/YkAk3jEYZQ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 9, 2020
“Paired with White’s public statements, White’s demand for an exorbitant payment in exchange for continued coexistence, notwithstanding the previous absence of discussion of any payment (other than reimbursement of nominal attorneys’ fees), gives rise to imminent controversy, demonstrating a course of action from which a threat of suit could be inferred based on White’s charge of infringement,” the suit read.
Lady A’s counsel said in the filing that the trio has used Lady A interchangeably with Lady Antebellum since 2006. And, in 2010, they applied to register the Lady A name for entertainment purposes (live performances, streaming, musical recordings, and clothing) with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. All applications were granted without opposition.
Lady A is not seeking any money from Anita White. Instead, they want a declaration from the court that using the Lady A trademark and the name doesn’t infringe on any trademark rights White may legally hold or her non-trademark use of the name Lady A as a musical performer.