The Dixie Chicks: Martie, Natalie and Emily
The Dixie Chicks is a country music group, formed in 1989 in Dallas, Texas.
The original members of the Dixie Chicks were the sisters Martie Erwin and Emily Erwin, Laura Lynch and Robin Lynn Macy. Martie and Emily have married and their names are now Martie Maguire and Emily Robison.
Robin Lynn Macy left in late 1992, preferring a 'purer' bluegrass sound. She joined Sara Hickman and Patty Lege to form the group Domestic Science Club, which issued two albums before disbanding. Macy later founded a group called Big Twang, which cut one CD before its band members went their separate ways.
Laura Lynch was replaced in 1995 by Natalie Maines, daughter of producer and steel guitar player Lloyd Maines. The new lineup had a massive hit with their album Wide Open Spaces on Sony's Monument label. This was followed by another smash hit CD, Fly. As of early 2005 these albums have sold over 12 million and 10 million copies respectively.
The group was involved in a dispute with their record label for two years, and their next album Home was an independent production, produced by Lloyd Maines and released in 2002 after the Chicks and Sony reconciled their differences. Despite having a 'non-commercial' sound – unlike the two previous records, Home lacks drums and is dominated by very-up-tempo bluegrass and pensive ballads – it was also a major success and has sold over 6 million copies (which might have been more but for the political controversy).
The current line-up consists of group leader Martie (fiddle, mandolin, and vocals), Emily (guitar, dobro, banjo, and vocals), and Natalie (lead vocals and in concert, guitar). While Martie and Emily are accomplished musicians, Natalie has a strong and distinctive voice. The group's mixture of bluegrass and mainstream country music appeals to a wide spectrum of record buyers. The group's visual image ranges from pretty to jokey to fiery, which further enhances their general appeal.
- She needs wide open spaces
- Room to make her big mistakes
This romantic, adventurous sense of independence is the major theme of the Maines-era Chicks; it is strongly evident too in 'Cowboy Take Me Away', another of their signature songs, and then later in their cover of Stevie Nicks' 'Landslide'. But the Chicks can also deliver gleeful revenge epics such as 'Goodbye Earl' (which led to their first mild brush with controversy when some radio stations shied away from playing it) or raucous, ribald numbers such as 'Sin Wagon' (a concert staple rave-up). In contrast, a key track from Home was a rendering of Patty Griffin's 'Top of the World' (for which the subsequent tour was named), which features a startingly unusual point of view and seeks to portray an almost unbearable sense of regret.
On March 5, 2003, Natalie Maines provoked controversy in America by saying, during a concert in London, that the band was 'ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas'. Maines is a native of Lubbock, Texas. Following the uproar and a boycott of their music, the singer attempted to clarify matters on March 12 with the statement 'I feel the President is ignoring the opinions of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world.'
This statement failed to quiet her critics, and on March 14 she issued an apology stating '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.'
Some fans remained angry and pressed on with a boycott of Dixie Chick music and stations that played their music, while other fans were disappointed that she apologized. In one display of anti-Dixie-Chick publicity, former Dixie Chick fans were encouraged to bring their Dixie Chicks CDs so that they could be crushed by a bulldozer. The extent of the backlash resulted in the artists being concerned about their personal safety and that of their families. Bruce Springsteen and Madonna were among those who came out in support of the right of the women to express their opinion. Not one to back down from controversy, even Madonna herself was pressured to cancel the release of her anti-war video 'American Life' which featured a Bush parody.
On April 24, 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, 2003 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. Many critics called the moves publicity stunts, since they were launched on the eve of a U.S. concert tour.
The original controversy was launched when a Guardian review of the group's London concert was picked up by U.S. media. For an article on how the Guardian reported the saga, see 1 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,943170,00.html).
President Bush responded to the controversy surrounding the 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...' 2 (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/25/international/worldspecial/25BUSH-TEXT.html?pagewanted=all)
At the first concert of their nation-wide tour the Dixie Chicks received a very positive reception. The concert was held in Greenville, South Carolina on May 1 and was attended by a sell-out crowd of 15,000. The women had come prepared to face up to opposition and Natalie Maines invited those who had come to boo to do so but the crowd erupted in cheers.
Nevertheless, the band remained controversial. On May 6th, a Colorado radio station suspended two of its disc jockeys for playing music by the Dixie Chicks in violation of a ban on their music. On May 22 at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards ceremony in Las Vegas there were boos when the group's nomination for entertainer of the year awards was announced. However, the broadcast's host, Vince Gill, reminded the audience that everyone is entitled to freedom of speech. The Academy made the award to Toby Keith, an outspoken critic of the group.
In the fall of 2003 the Dixie Chicks starred in a broadcast TV commercial for Lipton Ice Tea which made a tongue-in-cheek reference to the corporate blacklisting and the grassroots backlash: in the tea spot, the Chicks are about to give a stadium concert when the electricity suddenly goes out - but they manage to electrify the stadium all by themselves, belting out a rousing 'a capella' version of 'Set Me Free' to the raving cheers of the fans.
A controversy has arisen regarding exactly who was responsible for launching the boycott of their music and the extent their fans supported the boycott. Some critics of the boycott, such as Michael Moore, claim the boycott was not a product of large numbers of fans angry at their comments but an organized plot by Bush-supporting radio chain executives and the Republican Party leadership. They claim the ban on playing their music by country music stations owned by Clear Channel Communications was not simply initiated by local station managers or DJs on their own or in response to angry listeners but was coordinated by top executives who wanted to curry favor among the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress for policies such as relaxation of media ownership rules. They also claim people working for the Republican party engaged in a deceptive phone campaign to convince country radio stations to remove the Dixie Chicks music from their playlist. Ultimately, they say, this led to the false perception that most Dixie Chicks fans were strongly opposed to Natalie Maines exercising her free speech right by making an anti-Bush remark. They point to the fact that the band’s then-current album sales were up and their concerts where largely selling out to support their claims. The boycott’s critics suggest that there was a deliberate attempt to create the false impression that many fans had turned against the Dixie Chicks in order to try and send a message to other celebrities that anti-Bush administration remarks could hurt your career. Clear Channel Communications and the RNC have denied these accusations.
In October 2004, the Dixie Chicks joined the 'Vote for Change' tour, playing a series of concerts in American swing states. These concerts were organized by MoveOn.org with the general goal of mobilizing people to vote for John Kerry and against George W. Bush in that year's Presidential campaign. The Dixie Chicks' appearances were joint performances with James Taylor. This effort was unsuccessful in getting Kerry elected, and during the concerts Maines' stage remarks revealed a certain amount of nervousness over what the Dixie Chicks' future career path would be.
- 2004 Patrick Lippert award from MTV's Rock The Vote, for 'protecting freedom of expression' 3 (http://www.softcom.net/webnews/wed/cw/Uus-rockthevote.RwyB_EJN.html)
- 2003 FINEMAN PR (http://www.finemanpr.com/blunders.html)'s 'Top 10 PR Blunders List' 4 (http://www.azreporter.com/news/features/2003/prblunders.html)
- VH1's 'Big Quote of 2003' 5 (http://www.vh1.com/shows/events/big_in/2003/show_cat.jhtml)
- 2003 Grammy Award: Best Country Album- Home
- 2003 Grammy Award: Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal - 'Long Time Gone'
- 2003 Grammy Award: Best Country Instrumental Performance-'Lil' Jack Slade'
- 2003 Grammy Award: Best Recording Package- Home
- 2002 Billboard Music Award: 'Country Duo/Group of the Year'
- 2002 Country Music Association (CMA) Award: 'Vocal Group of the Year'
- 2002 CMT Flameworthy Award: 'Video Visionary Award'
- 2002 American Music Awards: 'Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group'
- 2002 American Music Awards: 'Favorite Country Album' for Home
- 2002 People's Choice Award: 'Favorite Musical Group or Band'
- 2001 TNN/CMT: 'Favorite Group/Duo'
- 2001 American Music Awards: 'Favorite Band/Duo/Group'
- 2001 Academy of Country Music (ACM): 'Entertainer of the Year'
- 2001 ACM: 'Vocal Group of the Year'
- 2001 ACM: 'Video of the Year' - Goodbye Earl
- 2000 Country Music Association (CMA): 'Album of the Year' - FLY
- 2000 CMA: 'Entertainer of the Year'
- Dickerson, James L. (2000). Dixie Chicks: Down-Home and Backstage. Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 0878331891.
External links This biography is published under the GNU Licence