The Dixie Chicks, one of the hottest country groups until they took on President Bush and caused country radio to turn on them in 2003, are back–and not a moment too soon.
The trio, Natalie Maines, Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Erwin Robison just released the lead single, “Gaslighter,” from their upcoming album of the same name. It’s their first since 2006.
In the midst of all this Trump craziness, the Chicks were a reminder that free speech and candor sometimes comes with a price.
The group dominated the charts in the late ’90s. Their breakout album, Wide Open Spaces, released in 1998, sent three singles to No. 1 on country charts. Their follow up album, 1999’s Fly, was also a double platinum success.
The band released their third album Home, in 2002 and were on the road touring when all hell broke loose.
At the time, President George W. Bush was building a case to go to war with Iraq over the nation’s alleged stockpiling of “weapons of mass destruction.”
The Dixie Chicks kicked off their “Top of the World Tour” in England on March 10, 2003, at the Shepherds Bush Empire Theater in London.
During some loose chatter while introducing their anti-war anthem “Travelin Soldier,” Maines casually remarked:
“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.”
The comment was picked up by the English tabloids and word quickly got back to the United States.
A backlash erupted inflamed by what was then a nascent right-wing media, and country radio stations jumped on the bandwagon, urging fans to boycott their music.
Critics said Maines shouldn’t have criticized the president on foreign soil. Maines responded: “I said it there ’cause that’s where I was.”
“I feel the President is ignoring the opinions of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world,” she said, trying to clarify her remarks.
Finally, Maines 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.”
On Mar. 20, 2003, U.S. troops invaded Iraq, instigating a war that continues to this day. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown, but the justification for the war later turned out to have been fabricated by the Bush administration. Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.
The war stands as one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in U.S. history. More than 4,400 solders have been killed and just over 39,000 wounded. More than 5,000 troops still remain in the country.
Country star Merle Haggerd, one of many artists to support the group, likened their treatment to a “verbal witch-hunt and lynching.”
When public sentiment turned against the war and the administration’s duplicity was revealed, the Chicks felt their stand on principal had been justified.
Their 2006 album “Taking the Long Way,” included the single single “Not Ready to Make Nice,” which directly addressed the controversy. Maines followed up by withdrawing her earlier apology.
Music fans were clearly on their side. The album debuted at No. 1 on both the U.S. pop and the country albums charts and swept The Grammys. Much of the album was inspired by what the group called “the incident.”
The album sold 526,000 copies the first week, even though country radio music stations largely refused to play its songs and sales were weak in the south.
At the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, Cabin Creek Films premiered “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing,” a documentary that followed the group after the 2003 London concert remarks.
The group split up and went on hiatus in 2008. Maines released a solo album in 2013, the first since Taking the Long Way.
The trio made periodic appearances between 2010 and 2013, but Gaslighter is their first studio album together since then.
Despite the title, lead single “Gaslighter” wasn’t inspired by President Trump. Instead the fiery anthem is based on Maines’ long divorce legal fight.
The video, directed by Seanne Farmer is an ode to women and the struggle they’ve faced. Clips from several decades leading up to World War II, when women joined the workforce in numbers, are featured.
Sharp-eyed history buffs will note (at 10 seconds in) a scene from a controversial 1964 campaign ad aired by then-President Lyndon Johnson. It featured a small child picking flower petals moments before a nuclear explosion.
Gaslighter will be released May 1st. The group performed together for the first time since 2016 this past December at Jack Antonoff’s Ally Coalition benefit concert in New York. Antonoff produced the album.
Check out the video below.