Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ spiritual wedding band, Lady Antebellum, just made the decision to remove the spiritual confederate flag from their name and have rebranded themselves as Lady A after “having many honest conversations with some of our closest Black friends.” However, according to Rolling Stone, Lady Antebellum’s best Black friends failed to recommend they Google Lady A before changing everything “on social media and distribution platforms including Spotify and Apple Music, and the group’s website,” because it turns out the name was already being used by Anita White, a Black blues singer from Seattle who has been performing and recording under the name Lady A for over 20 years. If this is not an occasion for an Issa Rae “deep, heavy, negro spiritual sigh,” I don’t know what is.
According to Rolling Stone:
Seattle blues singer Lady A had just gotten off of work on Thursday when a bombardment of phone messages from friends, fans and producers came in all shouting the same thing: Her name had been stolen.
This Lady A — a 61-year-old black woman whose real name is Anita White — has been playing the blues under the name for more than 20 years. She began singing as a gospel performer at church and started going by Lady A for karaoke nights in the Eighties. She’s released multiple albums with the name, and on top of her day job working with Seattle Public Utilities, she’s gearing up to release another album, Lady A: Live in New Orleans, on her birthday on July 18th.
Anita told RS that she’s frustrated that nobody reached out to her about using the name Lady A, and finds it ironic that the move was framed as support for racial equality, yet it effectively robbed a Black woman of her identity.
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,” she says, her voice breaking. “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,” she adds. “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?”
Rolling Stone says they reached out to Lady Antebellum and a rep told them the band was “not aware of the other artist and plans to reach out to her.” Shit, they better reach into their purse first!
“It’s about who is first to use a name. Audience size is irrelevant,” says Bob Celestin, a longtime music attorney who’s represented Pusha T and Missy Elliott. “And the question is, does the original Lady A have a trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office? If she does, she can go ahead and sue Lady Antebellum for infringement. If not, she still has a common law trademark and she can still show that she’s been using the name in commerce — records, posters, tour flyers — for a number of years. She is first to use the mark in commerce, so that gives her a superior right to the name.”
Celestin adds that if two artists who work in different genres end up with the same name, they can reach a coexistence agreement that allows both groups to market music under the name by acknowledging the slim chance for confusion. “But you could say that blues is the foundation of country, so they’re very close in genre, and if they’re close in genre there’s much more confusion in the marketplace,” he says.
The ONLY reason I even know who Lady Antebellum is is due to their fashion choices at the County Music Awards when compared to the legends that are Midland who dazzle time and time again. I’m so mad that now if anybody is searching for the music of the real Lady A, they’re going to be drowned in a sea of unimpressive country-lite denim and ruffles. But not today, Satan! Behold, A Lady. #BlackNamesMatter