Rebel Yell – A Shout out to the Dixie Chicks

Naked Chicks Rule!Three years ago, the queens of country cross-over, the Dixie Chicks, alienated the country music world with a rather inocuous comment about President George W. Bush. The comment, made just days before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, brought the trio a world of trouble and cast them as traitors in the eyes of many country fans. With a new album due this week, anyone who thinks the Chicks are ready to repent and play nice had better think again.

When the Dixie Chicks debuted in 1990 with their independently released Thank Heavens for Dale Evans nobody could have guessed just how independent the future chart dominatrices would be. The group that helped push the later-day country crossover craze of the late 90s and establish themselves as the queens of MOR hits has become a firebrand of independence and integrity—and it all started with an off-the-cuff remark in a foreign country on the eve of war.


Feisty singer Natalie Maines took the Chicks from mega selling bores to Nashville pariahs on March 10, 2003. Bucking the stereotype of the jingoistic, pseudo-patriotic country music denizens, Maines announced to a sold out crowd in London, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

It’s not so controversial, what she said. There are plenty of reasons three smart, savvy, talented women from Texas might not be at all taken by the Frat Guy in Chief. But Maines made no derisive remarks about the President, nor did she denigrate the troops who were facing the specter of war in a fight for “freedom,” including, presumably, Freedom of Speech. And yet, what Maines and company faced next would be a corporate conviction and punishment worthy of High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Country music stations across the nation “spontaneously” imposed a boycott of the Dixie Chicks music. As it turns out, the boycott was heavily supported and even promoted by corporate shits at Clear Channel Communications who owned a bulk of the stations that would normally fight like starved rats for the chance to “break” a new Dixie Chicks song on the air. Clear Channel, not so coincidentally, had a vested interest in a number of legislative and legal issues before the Republican controlled congress and FCC, not the least of which dealt with media consolidation where a positive outcome (in Clear Channel’s view) could boost station ownership and further tighten the media giant’s hold on FM markets. It was the perfect opportunity to come to a friend’s aid.

But to be fair, money talks and if the fans had sided with the Chicks the stations would have relented and played what their audience demanded. Instead, the Dixie Chicks faced hostile crowds and death threats specific and probable enough to get the FBI involved. Overnight, their once solid, screaming fanbase had turned their enthusiasm to anger and were calling for their fallen idols’ heads.

Under pressure, Maines issued a semi-apology, “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.” In an interview this weekend, she now wants to retract even that mild apology to a President she feels deserves no respect, “whatsoever.”

Sure, it’s easier today to speak out against a president who is increasingly seen as one of the worst in recent memory. With Iraq a constant source of bad news (though recent political developments there are hopeful), gas at record highs while oil companies reap equally record profits, his base eroding faster than the ice caps…it’s suddenly chic to bully Bush. But is it commercially smart when the one-third of the country who still supports the president is likely a country music consumer? The Dixie Chicks don’t seem to care.

Founding Dixie Chick Martie Mcguire put it simply and in terms any Indie and Punk fan should appreciate: “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 said. “We don’t want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do.”

The Dixie Chicks’ new album, Taking the Long Way drops this Tuesday, May 23. The lead single is “Not Ready to Make Nice.” I haven’t heard any of this album but I think I’m going to buy it if for no other reason than to be a good American and support Free Speech and independent thought.

Glorious Noise last covered the Dixie Chicks back in 2002 with “Home Girls.”

39 thoughts on “Rebel Yell – A Shout out to the Dixie Chicks”

  1. One of these days I’ll have to actually listen to the Dixie Chicks, but for now I’ll just say those bitches are right on!

    W is a turd, and they have the luxury of saying they were against him from the start, before it was cool.

  2. So another multi-millionaire artist speaks out against the president. Who cares? They already have more money than any of them can spend and she retracts the apology just as the new album (one that is aimed as less country and moer rock) is released. Call me cynical but just another way to use the media machine (left, right or in the middle) to drum up publicity. How come when either side (left or right) feels the other got better treatment the first thing they do is claim conspiracy? When the left feels stifled it is always corporate America and the Republican machine lead by George W. When the right feels wronged it is the liberal media and the lawyers/lobbyists. When will everyone wake up and see that both sides perpetuate this zero sum game to protect their little turfs versus coming up with real solutions. Let’s debate the issue without name calling or claiming a conspiracy. Even better suggest a solution that is real instead of playing the reactionary left wing indie journalist by writing the story both sides wanted you to write.

  3. i have to agre with the above. i never care either way for the dixie chicks. i was on their side during the whole controversy and didn’t mind the apology. but the fact that they retracted their apology smacks of a very wishy washy behavior. if they felt that they shouldn’t have apologized why they’d do so in the first place? they don’t come off as genuine now. they’re just playing both sides of the fence.

  4. Agreed, that was a pretty weak apology. Requiring that no matter what, we should respect the president is pretty un-american in my opinion. But good for them for at least finally getting it.

  5. Sure, it’s become hip to bash Bush, as I noted in the article, but not in the NASCAR world. It’s fine and dandy for Kanye or even Neil Young to step to the Prez, but you do not hear ANYONE in Country music bashing the president. To do so as artists of their caliber in their genre is proof of their guts, if you ask me.

  6. Sounds like they’ve given up on the NASCAR world. Rick Rubin produced this album: “I don’t know that we set out to make a rock record,” says Maines. “But we definitely didn’t set out to make a country record and I definitely had a bad taste in my mouth.”

    I think it’s overly cynical to assume they’re just striking a pose to sell records. The rednecks fucked them over, so it’s not surprising that they’d remain a little bitter.

    And who says you have to be able to come up with a solution before you’re allowed to point out that the current situation is not good? That’s bullshit.

  7. I just think it doesn’t exactly take a huge pair to bash Bush when his approval rating is slightly above Richard Nixon’s. It took a lot more to say what they said back when he was much more popular, and then they ruined it by immediately issuing a pretty lame apology. I still respect them for what they are doing now, but it would mean a lot more if they had just stuck to their guns.

  8. Isn’t it funny how when a famous idiot spouts off, we have to listen to it…freedom of speech. However, when we exercise OUR right to disagree, not support them by purchasing their CD or movie, etc. we are suddenly the bad guy as we are stepping on “their” rights? Their opinion was uninvited by people like us..and I’m sure that the Dixie Chunks were not, and are not, the least bit interested in the opinion of the little guy, so the only way WE could be heard, is to handle it the way that we did. They are supposed to be entertainers, not politicians. All they have done now, is proven themselves to be liars. No sympathy here.

  9. “Dixie Chunks.” That was clever. How long did it take you to come up with that one, and what the fuck do easy weight jokes have to do with the issue at hand?

  10. Pixies Kid,

    Nobody is saying you have to buy their CDs. I couldn’t care less if you did, and it looks like the Dixie Chicks couldn’t care less either.

    But when a US citizen’s ability to work and her safety is compromised because she voiced her opinion about the President of the United States, I care. I’m afraid too many people in this country only believe in our civil rights as theory, but not in practice. “I may not agree with your opinion but I’ll fight to the death to defend your right to have it.” Sure, until someone actually voices that opinion.

  11. I believe the upcoming Riviera album will be titled I Do Not Agree With Many Of This Administration’s Policies and will feature the smash hit, “George W. Liar.”

  12. Derek,

    while I agree that death threats are overboard, are you naive enough to believe that these girls didn’t think ahead as to what kind of crap this would stir up? Come on…this was nothing but a well-coordinated publicity stunt. And, to their credit, it’s working. But let me try to clear something up for y’all..it’s not that she just “spoke her opinion”…she did it in a country that is completely anti-American. We have Hollywood, here at home, spouting off on every issue, everyday, including this one, with barely a response at all from anyone.

    To Oh-No…while I love it that you talk dirty, keep your pants on…who said anything about weight???

  13. Do alittle homework on France, my dear. I wouldn’t be too please with the good ol’ USA if I had been in bed with Sadaam either…after all of the times we’ve pulled their rear ends out of the hotbed…where are they when we have a catastrophic event? Look up some of Putin’s comments.

  14. Is London (where the Dixie Chicks made the comment) in France now? I guess I better do some homework. I thought it was in the UK. And is Putin the king of France or something? Europe is so hard to keep up with!

  15. Pixieskid,

    I love you. Seriously, you’re brilliant. The way you’re parodying the jingoist hullabaloo and the willful ignorance of backwater squareheads is pure genius. Keep it up, son!

  16. They were just on Stern this morning…they did a great interview. I’m not a fan of them at all, but whatever. They haven’t backed down (really, even though that apology was forced). Even Howard apologized to them for criticizing their comment when they said it originally. Whatever. Good for them. Our President is doing a poor job. It’s not like people in other countries don’t realize that.

  17. pixieskid, you really strike me as someone who might think that gay people are only gay to be trendy, not because it’s who they really are (despite all the prejudice and hate that results from admitting it, especially if they’re forced out of the closet). What I mean is, why would the Dixie Chicks deliberately decide to alienate a good healthy portion of their potential audience by sticking to their guns about disliking the president? If they were doing this as a calculated stunt, wouldn’t a full apology get them more sales? Doesn’t it make sense for a country artist to be patriotic to the point of ridiculousness? (I’m looking at you, Toby Keith.) Why, if the Dixie Chicks were bashing the prez just for the money, did they decide to aim for the rock crowd, knowing that for the most part, these are sorta untested waters?

    And all of us who choose to read your words (as you are reading ours) are all benefitting from the same “freedom of speech” that the Dixie Chicks have. Feels pretty good, (doesn’t it?), knowing you can say whatever you want without having to worry about government-sponsored good squads dragging you from your bed at 2AM, beating you, and raping your wife and daughters? Do us a favor and shut the fuck up about freedom of speech; you clearly know not of what you speak.

  18. CORRECTION: That line was supposed to read “goon squads”, not “good squads”. The rest of it stands just fine. I just shoulda proofread a little better.

  19. Another classic line that both sides must love: “Shut the fuck up about freedom of speech.” As I said towards the top both sides want the discourse to descend into thoughtless name calling, that way the real issues never need to be debated. The left and right have staked out sound bite positions to play to certain constituencies, no one will stand up and say there are tradeoffs that have to be made, it is always an either or. The true debate is are we willing to sacrifice certain liberties for more safety? If so how much or how little is acceptable? Our government already has very broad powers that do limit certain freedoms but we also have great freedoms. The question is where to draw the line, not whether to draw a line — the line is already established. On almost every issue the left and right, through polling and focus groups, divided us and have cut off any real discussion or debate of the issues. Taxes are another great example. The right says less taxes promotes economic growth, the left then says the tax cuts benefit the wealthy and hurt the poor. The right says the top 10% already pay 2/3s of all income tax and the top 50% pay over 95% of all income tax so the already are taxed too much. The left says this shows the disparity. So instead of sound bites we need a debate on how big social programs will be and how should they be paid for, instead we get you are for or against economic growth or you or for or against the poor. Neither side wants to stand up and say there are compromises that need to be made since that isn’t good for getting votes. Both sides say “Vote for us and we will give you all you want and deserve with no sacrifice.” No one is held accountable on either side of the aisle. You get the government you deserve, demand more from all sides!

  20. FTP, thanks for setting me straight. I’m not saying that our bipartisan system doesn’t have severe flaws; it sure does. My “s.t.f.u. about freedom of speech” line was merely aimed at the ignorance inherent in pixieskid’s comments, whereas freedom of speech is (for him) such a burden that because of that freedom, we are all forced to hear the rantings of the Dixie Chicks, which he obviously disagrees with. I disagree; I’d rather pay the price for freedom of speech, and have to endure the bigotry of Farrakhan and hateful prejudices of certain so-called Christians than to give up an iota of that freedom of speech.

    Besides, if you think about it, disliking the current president doesn’t have to be a partisan activity; why does one have to be a Democrat to agree that we currently have an ineffectual president? If the GOP are smart, they themselves should be backing away slowly from the huge trainwreck which is Bush Jr.’s administration.

  21. Pixieskrod, you are so funny! And smart! You are able to read the minds of three female musicians from miles away, having never met them. And you’re able to tell us exactly where their words contradict their secret motives. Thank our lord Jesus for prophets such as yourself. Without you we’d have to take people at their word. Man, that would suck.

    Fightthepowers, What up with you, dude? Please explain to me exactly what “the left” is. I consider myself a very liberal, very politically active person. Yet, I’ve never been able to find “the Left”. In fact, it’s rather disappointing to become a liberal and find out that there is no Left Wing. There’s no organization, no group, no network…nothing…dada…zillch. I would also leave you with a statement to ponder from Richard Dawkins, “…when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.”

  22. Taking the Long Way moved 271,000 copies in its second week of U.S. sales, retaining the #1 spots on both The Billboard 200 and the Country Albums charts.

    The slip of 48% in sales is actually better than normal for #1 albums.

  23. No shit dumbass, you can say what ya want,,,,but we dont hafta buy your shitty cds either,,,freedom works both ways you dumb sluts!

  24. Correction:

    Your all idiots(right and left), the Dixie Chick who said what she did about the prez. She did it out of pure ignorance of the fact that her audience(country listeners) majorly lean to the right. No publicity stunt was coordinated simply an ignorant person making her ignorance known… does anyone really think that any one of the dixie chicks knows anything besides how to sing a note? Politics just aint these bitches thing… They need to just shut the fuck up and do the only thing they’re good for. Sing.

  25. Jesus, “Hank” and Eric. I suppose you like your “bitches” and “sluts” barefoot too?

    Media- and attention-seeking celebrities and singers are nothing new. But sorry, I didn’t exactly catch why someone expressing a one-sentence opinion (and a pretty un-controversial one in the majority of the world–even if I happen to think they bottled out with the whole apology) makes her a “slut” or a “bitch.”

    Is it that Maines’ opinion differed from yours? Or is it just that she had an opinion at all?

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