Jazz singer Suede keeps things smooth

February 05, 1994|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

It seemed almost too good to be true. Suede, a Baltimore-based jazz singer, had just performed at the National Organization of Women's March on Washington last April, and no sooner had she left the stage than the event's media liaison told her Rolling Stone wanted an interview.

"I said, 'Great!' " the singer recalls. "So I headed over there, and whoever was standing there said, 'Oh, you represent the band?' "

The band?

Apparently, the Suede Rolling Stone had been expecting was an English glam rock band, not a female jazz singer. "That was the first, clearest case of confusion," the singer says. But it would not be the only one. Eventually, even her fans were wondering why the new album by Suede turned out to be the work of some rock band.

Suede, needless to say, was ticked. It wasn't just that she had been singing as Suede for more than a decade, and had two albums to her credit before the English group had even cut its first single; Suede was the name she'd been called since she was a kid.

"It came out of my first name, Suzanne, being shortened to Sue, and getting too close to the small 'D' at the beginning of my last name," she explains. "It spelled Suede, and I had a very clever teacher who started calling me that. The name stuck."

She wanted it to continue to stick, too. So Suede did what anyone in her position would do -- she sued.

It didn't seem an even fight at first. After all, the English band was signed to Sony Music, a company with greater resources and more lawyers than someone like her could hope to match. But Suede did have one thing on her side: a trademark.

"I actually ended up trademarking the name after it was brought to my attention that there was a writer in the Atlanta area writing for a small porn magazine under the name Suede," she explains. "I thought, I'd better do something to protect this -- having, of course, no idea that the band was going to come along later."

Suede says she expected Sony would try to "make me be quiet and go away." But a trademark is a trademark, and none of the corporation's maneuvering could get around that fact.

Although the settlement is still being negotiated, it seems likely that Suede will continue to be Suede, while the band will be known as the London Suede.

"In all fairness to the band, I did not feel like this was a battle between me and [them]," she adds. "It was clearly a battle that Sony was putting up to save themselves some time and money."

BENEFIT CONCERT

What: Suede, a jazz singer, performs

When: 7 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Annapolis

Tickets: $15 (proceeds to benefit HIV/AIDS charities Our House and Haven).

Call: (410) 544-2244

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