Remember when the Dixie Chicks became Public Enemy #1? The same band that brought us songs like “Wide Open Spaces” and “Goodbye Earl” saw their band’s future take a sharp detour in 2003 when they became a target for boycotts, labeled as traitors, and even issued death warrants. In 2001, the Dixie Chicks were America’s sweethearts and even a touching acapella performance at the 9/11 benefit concert, America: A Tribute To Heroes Then things changed dramatically less than two years later when the power of the press and an offhand political comment went viral.
“I BELIEVE IN LOVE” from the 9/11 Benefit TV special
Lead singer, Natalie Maines was interviewed in London just prior to the U.S. invaded Iraq. The outspoken feisty singer remarked “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” This was the bomb that instantly went viral! The power of press was in full effect as backlash against the band came right away. Their single, “Landslide” was pulled from Country Radio and Natalie was receiving death threats over her comments. The tight knit country music fan base abandoned the band. Merle Haggard actually helped them out by describing it as a “verbal witch hunt and lynching” over sharing an opinion. A few weeks later, Natalie apologized for the disrespectful comment to President Bush and proclaimed “I love my country and I’m a proud American”.
“NOT READY TO BE NICE”
Right in the midst of this controversy, I saw the Dixie Chicks in Tampa. I’ve been to many heavy metal and hip hop concerts over the years and I’ve never seen security on such high alert as much as that night for three young ladies singing traditional country and bluegrass music. From the extra pat downs at the gate to the heightened police presence outside the arena and near the stage, it added a nervous energy to the show that night. If you haven’t seen their documentary, “Shut Up And Sing”, it’s a fascinating look back at their career including all of the controversy and how the Dixie Chicks resurrected their public profile.