In 1989, the Dixie Chicks began in Texas. Back then, there were four people in the band. They looked like cowgirls with chops because they wore prairie skirts and blouses with fringe and played a mix of bluegrass and traditional country music. The name of the band was a play on the name of Little Feat’s 1973 album “Dixie Chicken.” In the early press about the group, there was not a single critic who thought the name was offensive.
When the Dixie Chicks signed with Sony in 1995, many years ago, the label was worried that their name was not politically correct. At the time, the bosses were more worried about “Chicks” than “Dixie,” which is short for the former Confederate states. However, they did warn the Texan trio that people in the northern states might be turned off by the song. But Natalie Maines and her sisters, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire stood their ground and went on to become one of the biggest country acts of all time.
The Dixie Chicks brought back traditional instruments to a style of music that had become too smooth. They didn’t use their country roots to write misogynistic murder ballads about women, though. Instead, they wrote cheeky early feminist classics. Purists were upset by almost everything they did, but that didn’t stop their first album for Sony, Wide Open Spaces, from selling more copies in 1998 than every other country act put together.
In March 2003, the Dixie Chicks, who are now known as the Chicks, spoke out against President George W. Bush.
Not only did their words have a huge effect on the country superstars, but they also changed country radio and the Chicks’ label. Here’s everything you need to know about the Dixie Chicks controversy.
The Dixie Chicks Controversy
In March 2003, Maines, the lead singer, told a crowd in London that she was “ashamed” that George W. Bush was also from Texas. This was eight days before Bush went to war with Iraq.
After the British newspaper The Guardian wrote about the statement, American country music fans, who were mostly on the right and supported the war, were upset. Many country radio stations banned the Dixie Chicks and held CD-burning protests, they got death threats, and other country musicians didn’t like them. Then there were accusations and death threats. People called them traitors and said they were Saddam’s angels. US conglomerates banned them from the airwaves.
The backlash hurt sales of the Dixie Chicks’ music and concert tickets, and they lost sponsorship from a big company. This ended their careers overnight.
“Home sold millions of albums, their songs were all over country and pop radio, and they had a sold-out arena tour,” says Don Ienner, who became president of Sony Music U.S. in April 2003 after being chairman of Columbia Records. “They’ll be off the air in one day, and fans will burn their records.”
A few days later, Maines apologized, saying that her comment had been rude. In 2006, she took back her apology, saying that Bush didn’t deserve any respect. In response to the criticism, the Dixie Chicks released the song “Not Ready to Make Nice.” It was the last thing they did for 14 years.
Why Did Dixie Chicks Change Name To Chicks?
In March 2020, the Dixie Chicks announced their comeback with the single Gaslighter. Then the Covid-19 lockdown happened, George Floyd died in police custody, and Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests around the world changed the way they promoted their new album. Statues of the Confederacy were being taken down, and the country band Lady Antebellum, which was another name for the Confederate south, changed its name to Lady A. Why shouldn’t the Dixie Chicks do the same? “For many black people, it brings to mind a time and place of servitude,” wrote Jeremy Helligar in the magazine Variety.
As the issue got louder over the course of two weeks in late June, the three didn’t say much. Then, under the name the Chicks, they put out a new single called “March March.” “We want to meet this moment” was the only thing that made sense on their website.
Strayer, the banjo player, says a few days after the news comes out that the change has been coming for a long time. She says that while the band was on tour in 2016, when Donald Trump was running for president, they started to feel bad about the name. In order to water down the change, the words “The Chicks” and “DCX” were used on their merchandise and branding. “Current events were the turning point, but it’s not like we just started thinking about it two weeks ago.”
After the official name change, there was a cycle of anger that was inevitable. People on the right said that they were just showing off how good they were. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said that they told: “the whole South to p*** off.” Strayer didn’t want to respond to Cruz’s tweet and said she doesn’t know what “virtue signaling” means.