Insert Foot: Lady Antebellum or Lady A: what exactly is in a name?


Rendering: Adam Pardee/STAFF.

Lady A, also known as the artists formerly known as Lady Antebellum, isn’t having a good week.

Neither is Lady A.

One moment …

The part about not having a good week … month … year, is definitely going around. But the alleged misunderstanding that caused the Grammy-winning country trio to change its name Thursday after 14 years illustrates an important point that’s suddenly dawning on a whole lot of Americans lately:

None of us seem to know squat about each other, or even ourselves, and it’s time to start thinking–then doing–something about it.

In this case, Lady Antebellum supposedly figured out 14 years after naming their band after a pre-Civil-War Southern era connected to slavery and plantations, that their name could be offensive. Granted, some people relish being offended. And sometimes band names are intentionally offensive to make a point. I’m all for it. Powerful institutions are fair game.

But in this case, they didn’t know? They didn’t know glorifying something built on the backs of slaves was sensitive?

Maybe there’s no Google in their neck of the woods. But never mind that. The story gets better, or worse, depending on one’s sense of irony.

Lady Antebellum changed its name to Lady A on Thursday. Which seems like a quick, logical fix, since fans call them that anyway. And, of course, they did so after researching the name to make double secret positive sure no one else goes by the name Lady A.

Except …

Yep. Nope.

About 13 seconds after the country stars announced their name change, a Seattle blues singer called Lady A started receiving messages telling her someone swiped her name.

She’s a Black singer named Anita White. Go ahead and cringe. I can wait.

Right. Her last name is White. If I tried to sell that in a screenplay, I’d get laughed out of someone’s office for being stupid.

Anita White has released multiple albums under the name Lady A, with her next one scheduled to be released July 18, on her 62nd birthday.


White, understandably, isn’t pleased. She told Rolling Stone no one reached out to her before the announcement.

“This is my life,” she told the magazine. “Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done. 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.”

For those just rolling out of bed for the first time in 2020, Floyd was the man who was killed May 25 by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleaded for his life. The killing has sparked the most widespread protests over racial inequality in more than half a century.

“It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them,” White told Rolling Stone. “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?”

Because they didn’t look. Which seems to be going around.

Maybe they did look and didn’t care. Or they didn’t look hard enough. Or were in a hurry to rectify an honest mistake. Or were being opportunistic to get some free press. Maybe they really were so thoughtless to think their name wasn’t a problem to some. Maybe maybe, maybe …

At some point, it doesn’t matter. We’re all guilty of not doing something when we should, or not realizing something is a problem for some people. There will always be those who don’t care, or simply don’t know. I didn’t know Lady Antebellum was hurtful to anyone before this week. But it’s not my band name. And ignorance is no longer an excuse.

Have you ever been told by a police officer that ignorance of a law is no excuse for breaking it? So why the double standard? I’m certainly not putting the former Lady Antebellum’s apparent ignorance on par with a police officer killing someone. But is it likely that police officer’s attorney is already fashioning a defense to the second degree murder charge he’s facing, by saying he was ignorant of the fact he was killing George Floyd? Probably.

Simply saying we don’t know isn’t OK anymore. It can’t be.

Follow music critic Tony Hicks at .

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