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Country band Lady A chided for suing blues singer Lady A in name dispute

Country group Lady A, formerly Lady Antebellum.
(Al Powers / Associated Press)

Lady A is going to court.

After negotiations broke down over use of the name, the country-music trio Lady A, formerly Lady Antebellum, is suing veteran blues singer Anita White, who has been using Lady A as a stage moniker for decades. The move promptly sparked a backlash, with online commenters slamming the band for taking legal action against an established Black artist.

The group, known for hits including “Need You Now” and “Just a Kiss,” filed a trademark lawsuit in Nashville’s U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on Wednesday over White’s “attempt to enforce purported trademark rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade.” The group also says White demanded $10 million.

Band members Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and David Haywood and their company, Lady A Entertainment, are seeking a declaratory judgment that would allow them to use the name without infringing on any of White’s trademark rights. They are not seeking any monetary damages through the action, according to a copy of the complaint reviewed by The Times, but that they “continue to coexist.”

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A blues singer who has been performing as Lady A for more than 20 years is calling out the group formerly known as Lady Antebellum for adopting the same name.

The lawsuit said that the band has long gone by Lady A informally and that White did not oppose any previous applications for the Lady A mark, nor did she seek to cancel any of the Lady A registrations or seek the trademark for herself.

However, White’s legal team reportedly drafted a settlement agreement that “included an exorbitant monetary demand,” the lawsuit said.

“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” the Grammy-winning group said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

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A portrait of Anita White, who goes by the stage name Lady A.
A portrait of Anita White, who goes by the stage name Lady A.
(Dawn Lucrisia-Johnson)

Following the global protests over the death of George Floyd, the band announced last month that it would be dropping Antebellum from its name because it “did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word,” acknowledging the central role of slavery during the period.

“It was a stirring in our hearts and reflection on our own blind spots that led us to announce a few weeks ago that we were dropping the word ‘Antebellum’ from our name and moving forward using only the name so many of our fans already knew us by,” the band said in its Wednesday statement.

“When we learned that Ms. White had also been performing under the name Lady A, we had heartfelt discussions with her about how we can all come together and make something special and beautiful out of this moment. We never even entertained the idea that she shouldn’t also be able to use the name Lady A, and never will — today’s action doesn’t change that.”

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Lady A, formerly known as Lady Antebellum, recently met online with blues singer Lady A, who wasn’t happy about the country group’s new name.

The band members said they’re disappointed that they won’t be able to work with White for a “greater purpose” but they are “still committed to educating ourselves, our children and doing our part to fight for the racial justice so desperately needed in our country and around the world.”

In White’s recent interview with Rolling Stone, the 61-year-old Seattle artist slammed the country-music group for adopting the new moniker without consulting her first.

In the lawsuit, the band cited White’s Newsday interview in which she said that she was unhappy with their draft agreement and added, “Their camp is trying to erase me.”

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Representatives for White did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment Wednesday and Thursday.

As word of the lawsuit spread, the band was criticized for its decision, with several Twitter users noting the irony of a white band intimidating a Black woman, all the while contradicting its initial efforts to be racially sensitive.

Here’s a look at what some of them had to say:

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