In an effort to show solidarity with the black community in light of the George Floyd protests, the Grammy-winning country outfit formerly known as Lady Antebellum on Thursday announced their decision to change the group’s name, which refers to the period in which slavery thrived in the American South. Their good intentions may have backfired, though, as their newly amended name, Lady A, has already long been in use by a Black artist based in the Pacific Northwest.
Anita White is a soul, blues, and gospel singer from Seattle, WA, where there is a vibrant neo-soul scene. White has performed under the moniker “Lady A” for over twenty years. Unfortunately, all of the media coverage surrounding Lady Antebellum’s name change has made it nearly impossible to find the original Lady A online. In short, what was meant to be an anti-racist show of solidarity with the Black community has effectively silenced a Black artist’s voice.
Nominated as Best Blues Performer of the Year 2020 by the Washington Blues Society and known as “The Hardest Workin’ Woman,” Lady A is also the host DJ on Lady A’s Gumbo & Gospel on Sunday mornings and hosts a Black N Blues (the B side) show on NWCZ online radio out of Tacoma, Washington. White also runs Lady A Productions, which brings a range of blues and gospel artists from around the world to Seattle to perform.
In a post on Facebook, Lady A vented her frustration, asking how no one involved in the name change realized there was already a black artist using the new name:
Thank you to each and everyone who has texted, sent emails, PM’d me to let me know about Lady Antebellum now High-jacking my professional name by changing theirs to Lady A because they didn’t bother to do their homework on a name you chose when you started 14 years ago.
I have been Lady A for 20+ years, my Business is Lady A Productions, LLC and you can guarantee the first Cease and Desist notification I get from you will land your asses in court.
I’ve been working all day and hear this mess in messages and texts.. I’m not pissed, I’m just tired ..,. I had to rewrite because my Producers reminded me of who I am.
I AM Lady A… God gave me my platform and He didn’t bring me this far to leave me. thank you all for your concern… You can’t take my name.
Lady A has not announced any plans to pursue legal action against the act formerly known as Lady Antebellum, but having used the name for so long, she may have a right to do so under federal trademark law. She would probably have to demonstrate a “likelihood of confusion” by showing that the name change is likely to confuse consumers about the source of goods and services. For instance, someone might accidentally purchase a ticket to see one when they meant to buy a ticket for the other.
It is possible for two artists to coexist with the same name, especially if they are in different genres and have different fan bases, as this minimizes the likelihood of confusion. It is already clear, however, that Lady Antebellum’s name change and the surrounding media coverage have negatively impacted Lady A by making it far more difficult for listeners to find her. While the intention of the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum was to separate themselves from something problematic and stand in solidarity with the black community, they may have inadvertently taken a black artist’s name and nearly silenced her voice.
You can familiarize yourself with the original Lady A on her website here and purchase one of her records here. You can also listen to Lady A’s “Take Me Back To Seattle” below:
Lady A – “Take Me Back to Seattle”