When most people think of country music they think pick up trucks and songs about girls sippin’ warm summer beer. Other than Johnny Cash country music isn’t typically known for rabble rousers. But leading up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the Dixie Chicks changed that.
“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
Lead singer Natalie Maines said that during a concert in London and by the time the trio returned home the country world and a large part of the American public had turned on them.
Now, criticizing George Bush itself isn’t punk. Every punk band worth their salt was against Bush. And punk typically is at its best when there’s a conservative leading the country (think Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 80s). Side note: The only good thing to come out of a Donald Trump presidency would be the music. Too bad the inevitable nuclear apocalypse would mean we couldn’t enjoy it.
What made the Dixie Chick’s statement so radical was precisely because they were country stars. Country fans as a group tend to be Southern, conservative Republicans. The type of people who don’t take kindly to bad mouthin’ their president, no matter the flimsy causes he’s using to go to war. America, man. Love it or leave it.
The statement prompted Dixie Chicks boycotts, declining record and ticket sales, eroding sponsorship, and even death threats. Death threats!
As a business move, opening their big mouths was devastating for the Dixie Chicks.
But instead of trying to suck up to country fans and shying away from the controversy the group doubled down with their next album. Taking the Long Way was a direct shot at all the critics who dragged the group through the mud over the previous three years. The single “Not Ready to Make Nice” was an angry statement of resolve. The girls were sticking by their statement.
The album sold well, was praised by critics, and took home five Grammy awards, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. A pretty just reward for standing up for what you believe in.