The immediate aftermath of worldwide Black Lives Matter protests ignited sweeping change across industries. Some of these were largely cosmetic legacy management, like scrubbing old blackface episodes from streaming services, but others led to more meaningful toppling of racist power structures at publications and companies. The band formerly known as Lady Antebellum were one of the first bands to scrub their slavery-adjacent roots from the record, announcing they’d now go by the shorthand version of Lady A — which is also the stage name of Seattle-based Black blues singer Anita White, who’s gone by it for more than two decades. This went about as poorly as they could imagine, and only continues to worsen.
What seemed like an amicable shared name has decidedly changed into something very much not that. On Wednesday, the country artist Lady A filed a lawsuit in Nashville court against the blues singer Lady A. The band cites that it doesn’t want to prevent Lady A from continuing to use the name or seek any monetary damages, but wants to block her demands for a cash payment.
“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” the band writes in a statement. “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.”
How on earth did their team let it get to this point? The band asserts in the lawsuit that they’ve held the trademark on “Lady A” for years before making the name change official. Soon after the initial announcement, White painted the negotiations as significantly less rosy than the band conveys. “I’m not happy about [it] yet again after talking in good faith. … Their camp is trying to erase me and I’ll have more to say tomorrow. Trust is important and I no longer trust them,” she told Newsday. When you lay out the optics of a white country act attempting to expunge a name with troubling history in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, then picking one already used by a Black artist, and then suing her, it doesn’t look great!
Contrast this with the Chicks, who tactfully dropped the Dixie and reached an agreement with a ‘60s New Zealand duo of the same name. In a recent interview with the New York Times, the band claimed they’d been wanting to change it since 2003. As lead vocalist Natalie Maines put it, “I just wanted to separate myself from people that wave that Dixie flag.” See, not every Confederacy-adjacent name change has to be this messy!