Do you remember when Dixie Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines drew fire from country music fans? It was for the remarks she made about President Bush seventeen years ago. The music career of the Grammy darlings, Natalie Maines and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson, totally made a full stop after that. Unfortunately, it has never fully recovered.
It was in March 2003, when Natalie Maines stood onstage in London and voiced out her disapproval of the looming Iraq war and then-President George W. Bush.
“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence,” Maines said. “And we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”
But little did she know that her statements will bring an overwhelming amount of controversy. The trio’s music was banned from the country radio after that. Country fans staged “protests” where Dixie Chicks’ CDs were run over by bulldozers. Emily Robinson’s home was vandalized. The band needed to go “straight from the police cars to the stage and straight from the stage back to the police cars and back to the plane,” says Maines. Thanks but no thanks to the several scary death threats they received.
It even led to a high-profile spat with fellow country star Toby Keith. “I’d rather have a small following of really cool people who get it, who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith,” Maguire boldly said. “We don’t want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do.”
Natalie Maines then apologized for disrespecting President Bush a few days after her remarks. “As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect,” she said in her statement, in which she took back in 2006.
“I don’t feel that way anymore,” Maines told Time magazine three years after. “I don’t feel he is owed any respect whatsoever.”
But Time Have Not Mellowed The Situation
In recent years, the Dixie Chicks have slowly returned to the spotlight. In 2016, they collaborated with Beyoncé on the country-tinged “Lemonade” track, “Daddy Lessons.” The two superstars also teamed up for a performance at the 50th annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville.
However, what’s supposed to be a six-minute highlight of the night, production stirred up some emotions from the audience and viewers at home.
The performance received a negative reaction from several conservative viewers. Even country singer and fellow performer of the night, Alan Jackson, reportedly walked out because of it. The CMAs were also accused of deleting all mentions of the performance from their website, which they denied.
And just last year, Dixie Chicks discreetly snuck back to country radio. They teamed up with Taylor Swift for the heart-breaking ballad “Soon You’ll Get Better,” which appeared on the pop star’s smash album “Lover.”
However, the moment it landed in the country radio, listeners were leaving angry comments and calling into various stations because they are so furious that the Dixie Chicks are back on the radio.
According to The Rolling Stones, Portland Country DJ Mike Chase revealed that the moment they played the song and posted it on their Facebook page, “One woman [commented] her grandmother had died ten minutes prior to us playing it. And right after that, some guy goes, ‘I guess it would be better if Taylor wasn’t ramming her politics down my throat.'”
Things are still a lot worse. Listeners never complained about the actual song, which is about Swift’s mother’s struggle with cancer; they only complained about the inclusion of Dixie Chicks. And take note, you can’t even tell Dixie Chicks are on the song. The backing vocals are so gentle you can barely hear them.
It seems like the Dixie Chicks still can’t shake this grudge, even two decades later.
The Dixie Chicks Are Back
Today, the Dixie Chicks are trying to come back to the public eye again. The country trio released “Gaslighter,” their first new single after 13 years. The rollicking track is also first off their upcoming album with Columbia Records, which was supposed to be out last May 1 but was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But don’t expect them to carry on with their country connections.
Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Robinson no longer feel their part of the country community. “When we started doing this music, I liked the people in our industry.” Maines told Allure. “We always waved that country flag when people would say it wasn’t cool. And then to see how quickly the entire industry turned on us.”
The country trio’s lead singer stood by her ground, and she does not regret her past statements. “I wanted the audience to know who we were and what we were about,” she added. “I do not like when artists get on their soapbox — it’s not what people are there for; they’re there to listen to your music — [but] the politics of this band is inseparable from the music.”
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