"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."
Natalie Maines, as quoted by the Guardian during a concert "To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American."
Bruce Springsteen, on his Web site, April 2003
"To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American."
Bruce Springsteen, on his Web site, April 2003
Natalie Maines is a lead singer with the Dixie Chicks, a multiple Grammy-award winning alternative country band which was, as of June 2008, the highest-selling female band in any musical genre, having sold over 36 million albums as of March 2008. With hit songs and diamond albums the women are well-known for their lively persona, instrumental virtuosity, soaring ballads, fashion sense and outspoken political comments.
The Dixie Chicks were founded by the sisters Martie and Emily Erwin, and Laura Lynch and Robin Lynn Macy in 1989. The Erwin sisters have since married and changed their names to Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, respectively. All four women played and sang; however, Maguire and Robison provided most of the instrumental firepower for the band while Lynch and Macy leaned more on shared lead vocals.
Laura Lynch was replaced in late 1995 by Natalie Maines, the daughter of producer, steel guitar player, and former Chicks' session player Lloyd Maines. Within the next year, Sony scouted the Chicks and signed them to the newly revived Monument Records label. The new Dixie Chicks lineup consisted of group leader Martie (Erwin) Siedel (who had married in 1995) (fiddle, mandolin and vocals), Emily Erwin (guitar, dobra, banjo and vocals), and Natalie Maines (Tarabay) (lead vocal and in concerts, guitar). Natalie added a strong and distinctive voice to the sisters' musicianship and harmony vocals, and the combination clicked.
A single "I Can Love You Better" was released in October 1997, and reached the Top 10 on American country music charts. Their first album together as a trio followed quickly behind. Wide Open Spaces was released in January 27, 1998. Over the space of a year, the next three singles from Wide Open Spaces all hit No. 1 on the country charts: "There's Your Trouble", "You Were Mine" and "Wide Open Spaces"; a song reflecting the youthful yearning for independence. Wide Open Spaces went on to sell more than 30.5 million copies becoming one of the 50 best-selling albums in American history. In the summer of 1999, Dixie Chicks served as the opening act for Tim McGraw's concert tour.
Dixie Chicks had another hit album, Fly in 1999. Nine singles emerged from it, including country No. 1s "Cowboy Take Me Away" and "Without You". Fly went on to sell over 10 million copies, a rare repeat diamond album. Already performing in arenas, the band also staged the Fly Tour, their first as the headlining act.
Political controversy was sparked during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq when the Dixie Chicks performed in concert in London on March 10, 2003, at the Shepherd's Bush Empire theatre. During this concert, the band gave a monologue to introduce their song "Travelin' Soldier", during which Natalie Maines, a Texas native, was quoted by The Guardian as saying, "Just so you know, [...] we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." This is the official circulation of the comment.
Maines' remark sparked intense criticism and many Americans believed that she should not criticize George Bush on foreign shores. In response, Maines has said, "I said it there 'cause that's where I was" (as said in "Chicks in the Line of Fire").
The comment angered many country music fans and was financially damaging. Following the uproar and the start of a boycott of Dixie Chicks' music, Maines attempted to clarify matters on by saying, "I feel the President is ignoring the opinions of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world" (as found in "Upset about Bush Remark, Radio Stations Dump Dixie Chicks").
The statement failed to quiet her critics, and Maines quickly issued an 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. We are currently in Europe and witnessing a huge anti-American sentiment as a result of the perceived rush to war. While war may remain a viable option, as a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers' lives are lost. I love my country. I am a proud American." (as found in "Dixie Chicks Singer Apologizes for Bush Comment").
On April 24, 2003 the Dixie Chicks launched a publicity campaign to explain their position. During a prime-time interview with TV personality Diane Sawyer, Maines said she remained proud of her original statement. The band also appeared naked (with private parts strategically covered) on the May 2 cover of Entertainment Weekly magazine with slogans such as "Traitors," "Saddam's Angels," "Dixie Sluts," "Proud Americans," "Hero," "Free Speech," and "Brave" printed on their bodies. The slogans represented the labels (both positive and negative) that had been placed on them in the aftermath of Maines' statement.
President Bush responded to the controversy surrounding Dixie Chicks in an interview with Tom Brokaw on April 24: "The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say ... they shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out ... Freedom is a two-way street ... I don't really care what the Dixie Chicks said. I want to do what I think is right for the American people, and if some singers or Hollywood stars feel like speaking out, that's fine. That's the great thing about America. It stands in stark contrast to Iraq," (as reported in the New York Times International).
Since then, they have gained more public support for their advocacy for free speech and their early disapproval of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They are also continuing their political advocacy streak by being involved in multiple campaigns and national issues.
Al Gore announced on April 2, 2008, that the Dixie Chicks and fellow country artist, and at one time stark opponent of the Chicks, Toby Keith will appear side-by-side in a commercial spot to promote Gore's "We Campaign" initiative to raise awareness about climate change and what Americans can do to help the environment.
On April 13, 2008 the Dixie Chicks appeared on an episode of "The Simpsons" called "Papa Don't Leech", in which they performed a song called "America's Back." Aside from serving the plot, the song served as a satirical comment on the earlier controversy: "We said some things that came out wrong / but now we've got a brand new song / cause freedoms need curtailing now and then."