After the fight for her name, Lady A is focusing solely on her music
Lady A looks at her 2024 performance schedule as a way to share the blessings she’s received recently. Speaking from France during a European tour, Lady A spoke excitedly about upcoming concerts, festivals, and music conferences.
But to get to those shows she first had to take on the biggest fight of her life – a battle over her name, a modern-day David-and-Goliath tale.
When the singer known as Lady A picked up the phone one spring day in 2020, she found herself stepping into the ring for a title fight with some of the most powerful forces in the music industry.
Lady A thought the call, from a reporter with Rolling Stone Magazine, was a prank. She said, “I’ll call you back” and hung up. Then more calls started coming in.
Everyone wanted to ask her about the country band Lady Antebellum taking her name, announcing they would now be known as Lady A. Anita White, who prefers to go by the professional name she fought for, soon realized this was no joke. She started to rally her supporters – family, friends, and fans who she had gathered around her during three decades of performing in the Seattle area, the nation, and the world.
“There were many nights I cried,” said Lady A. “But I had my family and friends in Seattle, and the entire community that stuck by my side and held me up. I got here by the grace of God. I have a great community around me with people who really care.”
Like the underdog David when he went to fight the giant Goliath, she had no fear of the giant corporations involved because she knew she was on the right side in the battle. That faith led Lady A to take action.
“I think that God already has a plan for our lives,” she said. “Who knew Lady Antebellum would want to come after me?”
She made it clear to everyone that she was ready to fight for her name.
“No matter how much money someone has, you need to stand up for yourself.”
She was incensed by the reason used by Lady Antebellum about why they made the change: in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter movement, they were now aware of the racist connotations of their original name.
The stinging irony of white corporate interests taking a Black woman’s name so as not to appear racist was not lost on the original Lady A.
“At first, I was heartbroken because I immediately knew the reason that they gave for changing their name. And then I had to figure out how to fight back,” she said. “White folks using George Floyd as an excuse for jumping on the woke bandwagon. They tried to appropriate something the way colonizers do, and they didn’t care who they were hurting.”
She released a song that year called “My Name is All I Got.”
Lady A participated in interviews with Rolling Stone, CNN, and many other news outlets. The publicity caught the attention of a national law firm that stepped up with pro bono legal services. The singer counts that as one of her blessings. She also feels blessed that Rolling Stone continued to cover her story during the two-year legal battle.
In early 2022, the two parties settled out of court, and both now perform as Lady A.
With influences of soul, blues, and gospel, Lady A’s music is her own, founded in Seattle when she was five years old and started singing in the church gospel choir. She also remembers listening to her parents’ jazz and soul records while she was growing up.
“I like traditional blues music, but my music has a lot of different influences,” she said. “Gatekeepers of the blues try to tell us what the music should sound like. But music evolves like the artist evolves. It’s their life that they’re singing about. It’s my life.”
She started singing karaoke around Seattle in the 1980s, which is when she adopted the name Lady A. More and more people came to hear her sing, and she started to be paid for performing. For the past 20 years she's been singing professionally, juggling a full-time job with recording music and singing in clubs and music festivals around the Northwest.
The singer’s life changed significantly in 2023, when she retired from her day job with the City of Seattle to focus solely on her music. She recently finished a 25-show tour across four countries in Europe, on the heels of a six-show tour of Sweden. Even in Europe she was asked about the battle for her name.
Now Lady A is looking forward to spending time at home in Seattle with her family and friends, as well as getting ready for a new recording. She is participating in the Folk Alliance International Conference in February and performing at the Poulsbo Blues and Jazz Festival on Feb. 24.
Looking back on her battle, Lady A said she is stronger and more resilient now – enabling her to do more for others.
“We are supposed to share our blessings with other people,” she said. “I’m not singing to get rich. I’m sharing my music to encourage and inspire people so that they turn around and encourage and inspire someone else. Be blessed and be a blessing.”