I was never a big fan of country music but there is something with the Dixie Chick’s Grammy winning album that makes you want to sit back and listen some more.
Last March 17, three days before the fourth anniversary of the war on Iraq , I watched the Dixie Chicks video documentary “Shut up and sing” . It was a docu on the struggles of the country trio after their now infamous comment in a London concert that they were “ashamed that the (US) president is from Texas.” The unrehearsed remark came just days before America headed for war in Iraq in 2003, amidst massive global opposition from the anti-war movement.
The comment triggered a wave of ultra-patriotism especially from some country music listeners who were aghast over the “unpatriotic” and “treasonous” remarks made on foreign soil on the eve of war. And so, the conservative section of country music, heck the conservatives in general, started a boycott of the Chicks. Some callers would ask radio stations to stop playing the Chicks or else they’d boycott the station too. CD’s were burned, concerts were picketed and the members of the group were attacked publicly. In a matter of days, North America’s biggest selling group became a pariah in the country music scene.
One American picketing the Chicks went on to say… “Freedom of speech is ok. You just don’t do it publicly.”
Hehe… funny American.
Bush was on a roll. His ratings were up. Mission Accomplished, the sign says.
The Chicks on the other hand were reeling from crashing charts, sales, endorsements deals and sponsors.
The docu shows the Chicks dealing with the political and business fallout of their comments… 12 words which changed the direction of their band forever. Emotions rose when the band received their first death threat, an anonymous note warning that lead singer Natalie Maines would be killed during a gig in Dallas.
But the group managed to turn bad into good. They focused their emotions to writing songs on how they felt at that time, still “mad as hell” and still unapologetic for their remarks.
The video docu ended with the Chicks releasing their album successfully. The album “The Long Way” features interesting cuts like “Not ready to make nice”, “Taking the Long Way Around” and “Easy Silence”, all of which reflect the mood of the group at the time of the Iraq war and the war on the Chicks.
They were angry, intense, emotional yet quite hopeful. Despite the brouhaha, they felt good about themselves and their music. The album peaked at number one in the Country charts, without even getting airplay from Country stations.
An interesting part of the video was a Senate hearing called regarding the radio boycott of the Chicks imposed by a federation of radio stations. One of those who participated in the hearings was a Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Yup, she was the same senator who chaired a very recent US senate committee hearing on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Back then, at the time of the Chicks controversy, she sported a different ‘do, quite different from the blonde look she had during the hearings on the Philippines.
It would have been better if the video ending included the five Grammy wins of the Dixie Chicks in 2007. But with all that they’ve been through, the journey itself was the reward. The Grammy’s would just have been icing on the cake.
Dissing Bush, and making a stand on the war, that’s what really counts.
I’m still not much of a Country music listener, but the Dixie Chicks gained my respect as a band and as people. Four years after the Iraq war started and the infamous 12 words were spoken, the tables have turned. Bush is reeling from plummeting ratings and the Chicks are again on top of their game.
They just had to “take the long way around” to get where they are now.