The Dixie Chicks are touring! So Why Isn’t Country Music Excited?

The Dixie Chicks are touring! The Dixie Chicks are touring! Don’t you just want to shout it from the roof tops?!

It has been ten LONG years and lots of waiting, but the Dixie Chicks are going back on tour next year. A little earlier this year we learned that they had scheduled many dates in Europe, but then didn’t hear a peep about any in the US. On November 16 an anticipated event, not unlike the arrival of new music from Adele, FINALLY happened – U.S. dates were announced and their “real” fans are rejoicing.

The Dixie Chicks – Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, and Martie Maguire – will launch their first headlining US tour in a decade beginning on June 10, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. But will country music, and more importantly fans, accept them and bring them out of the exile from which the genre that they helped crossover into the mainstream success put them in?

What young woman in the mid to late 1990s hadn’t heard of  the song, “Wind Open Spaces”? The coming of age story of a young girl moving away from the family and life she has always known to stake her own claim in the world?

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret: This writer wasn’t really into country music at the time, but that song was a John Hughes film in musical form. That song and many of their others connected with an audience that wondered if anyone else was experiencing those same “growing pains”…just like Hughes. These chicks sang anthems that empower young women across color, ethnic, political ideology, and socioeconomic lines.

We’re all aware of the controversy that drove some fanatics – many of which were/are their fellow country musicians, fans, and radio personalities alike – to level a blacklist campaign against them. Some went so far as to have Chicks paraphernalia destroying rallies akin to those of the 70s Disco backlash.

Dixie Chicks memorabilia destruction

Although chatter against them has all but quieted on country airwaves and media, it continues to be an unspoken rule that you shy away from ANYTHING Chick related. It is 12, freaking, years later people! And one negative comment made by lead singer Natalie Maines about the then president of the United States, George W. Bush, set the Chicks world afire and destroyed their place in the genre they loved so much.

The comment: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” This simple statement to an audience on foreign soil, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire Theatre in 2003, sparked off anti-Dixie Chicks rhetoric – even from the beloved Reba McEntire. And EVERYONE remembers the barrage of anti-Chicks hate filled speech that poured from the tongue of Toby Keith and the back and forth barbs that he and Maines traded.

In 2011, on Fox and Friends, Hank Williams, Jr. likened our current President Barack Obama to Hitler (see here). After these comments ESPN yanked his opening song from the Monday Night Football opening where it had played for over 20 years. At the Iowa State Fair Grandstand, in 2012, he stated, “We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate!” These comments were followed by a round of applause from the audience. Mr. Williams also said in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, “We’ve got a president that does a call to the Koran (Qu’ran) or Mecca or whatever.” In that same story when asked if he believed the President actually hated America he is quoted as saying, “I don’t know about that, but it’s kind of obvious. I guess when you take a world tour, a world tour, to apologize for America.”

Hank Williams, Jr. has made SEVERAL openly disparaging remarks about OUR sitting President Barack Hussein Obama and the country music community has stood by him. On the Country Music Awards in 2011 Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood made it a point to acknowledge Hank’s faux pas and firing from Monday Night Football, and then there was a “surprise” appearance by the censured country star (seen here). He was met with applause from the audience. When asked was he sorry about what he said, he simply stated, “No.” Upon his exit from the stage he was enveloped in applause. Without saying the words, country music told their “kin” – Brad and Carrie’s word – that they support him no matter what. His MANY disparaging remarks about the country’s president was OK. But where was/is that same support for the Dixie Chicks? Aren’t they country music kin?

Two years after the comment that would forever be associated with Maines and Chicks, they emerged back on the scene as a united front and released the album Taking the Long Way. It was met with critical acclaim and fell on harden hearts of many country music fans. While Taking the Long Way went to No. 1 and the song “Not Ready to Make Nice,” was Top 40 hit. This pivotal song dealt with the ladies banishment from country music and gave a resounding middle finger to those who expected them to apologize for vocalizing their opinions. These little ladies were NOT going to take their black listing sitting down.

The Dixie Chicks Win Big at the Grammys

The platinum selling album Taking the Long Way coupled with “Not Ready to Make Nice,” and the title single “Taking the Long Way,” catapulted these three blue grass musicians onto the world stage. The lines:

My friends from high school, Married their high school boyfriends; Moved into houses, In the same zip codes where their parent’s live; No I, I could never follow…It’s been a long time gone now, Since the Top of the World came crashing down; And I’m getting by on my feet now, By taking the long way…

And take the long way these ladies have! The 2006 documentary Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing chronicles the scrutiny that these three women were subjected to – by by fans, corporate sponsors, and conservatives – over a three year period. These women have endure death threats, name calling, blacklisting, and the shunning from the community that they called home. They were forced to forge a new path in the music industry when the one that they had dedicated some much time and energy turned its back on them. But they came out on the other side, more successful in the mainstream and dismissed by their country brethren.

Censored and Labeled Chicks

After the success Long Way, and the stress of the backlash, Nathalie Maines needed to take a break from music and understandably so. The treatment that they received from many of their fans, big corporations, conservation politicians & organization, and ‘country’ left a bad taste in her mouth.

The two sisters of the super group, Emily Robison and Martie Mcguire, formed the band Court Yard Hounds during the Dixie Chicks hiatus. Robison and Mcguire wanted to return to the studio and Maines was not ready – they have released two albums as duo. Court Yard Hounds has experienced some critical. In 2013 Nathalie Maines release her solo album Mother (co-produced by Ben Harper), which has received a lot of positive critical acclaim. But none of these ventures have reached the success of the Dixie Chicks as a complete unit.

It will definitely be interesting to see what the Chicks have in store for us in the new year. They are/were never as strong apart as they are together. These three musicians have a rare ability to compliment each other that cannot taught – not unlike Brooks and Dunn. It will great to see these STRONG, OUTSPOKEN women out on tour in 2016…and let’s hope we have some new music to go along with the tour.

Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah "Cookie" Beyah hails from North Carolina. She is a pop culture nut and loves all things Nathan Fillion. Ms. Beyah has a passion for the macabre and the horror genre. She serves on the "Nevermore Film Festival" selection committee in Durham, NC and attends several comic and horror conventions each year. She holds an MA from Duke University, but is a dyed in the wool North Carolina Tar Heel fan! She also enjoys writing and reading creative non-fiction.

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