The Dixie Chicks - all grown up and still kicking ass
The Dixie Chicks emerged from playing on street corners in Dallas in 1989 to what may seem like an overnight success. Promoting a typical cowgirl image, the original members included sisters Martie Maguire (fiddle and backing vocals) and Emily Robison (banjo, dobro, and backing vocals) with vocalists Laura Lynch and Robyn Macy. Natalie Maines did not join the band until 1995, after sisters Martie and Emily decided to reconfigure the band. The band then recorded several albums before becoming successful.
The name Dixie Chicks, was inspired by the Little Feat song "Dixie Chickens". Their debut major-label album Wide Open Spaces sold more than any other album in country music history, more than 12 million copies, and earned them the CMA's Horizon award for new artists in 1998 for their hit "Cowboy Take Me Away". Their second album, Fly, included six Top Ten singles. In 1999, The Dixie Chicks topped the charts again with "I Can Love You Better" and "You Were Mine". After disputing with their record label (Sony Monument) for two years, Natalie's father and country music legend Lloyd Maines (the 30th inductee to the Texas H.O.M.E.) became the band's producer. In 2002, the group won their tenth CMA award for their album Home.
Controversy erupted and the popularity of The Dixie Chicks went downhill in April 2003 after remarks made at a performance in London. Natalie Maines made the comment about President Bush, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." It was this statement made ten days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq that sparked criticism and caused fans to question the patriotism of The Dixie Chicks. Local radio stations boycotted their music. As a result, their number one song "Travelin' Soldier" vanished from the charts. While some fans remained angry with the band following an apology from Maines, others were disappointed that she apologized at all. She ended up recanting her apology.
Meanwhile, some fans displayed an intense hatred for The Dixie Chicks, to the extent that former fans were encouraged to bring their CD's to demonstrations in which the CD's would be crushed by a bulldozer. After this fiasco, the band made few appearances until they confronted their negative image with "Not Ready To Make Nice" from their comeback album Shut Up And Sing with lyrics taken from a threatening letter the band received.
With this release, the Dixie Chicks left the boundaries defined by Nashville country-pop, to become musical trendsetters. Initially the trio combined the sounds of bluegrass and traditional country; whereas now, The Dixie Chicks have a more edgy look and a more mature, almost underground sound, attracting fans from people who used to scoff at them.
The girls write their own songs and play their own instruments. In spite of the negative publicity (before the war started, most Americans supported the Bush agenda - a fact which has dramatically changed), they are the best-selling all-female band ever, having sold over 30 million albums. The trio has won thirteen Grammy awards, and are the only country band to receive three Album Of The Year nominations. In February (2007) at the 49th Grammy Awards Show, The Chicks won all five categories for which they were nominated, including coveted Song, Record, and Album of the Year.
The Chicks began with two sisters, Emily Robison and Martie McGuire of Austin. Marty started out playing the fiddle at the age of five. The girls practiced every day after school while their erswhile "Momma" timed them with her egg-timer. Both learned guitar, fiddle, dobro and bass by their early teens. They were so good, they toured the United States with the legendary bluegrass group Blue Night Express. When they held auditions for a new lead singer for their Austin-based Dixie Chicks band, they met Natalie Maines.
Natalie was born in Lubbock, Texas in 1974 into a legendary Texas music family. The daughter of Maines Brothers Band co-founder Lloyd Maines, she was singing "before she could talk". Naturally beautiful, she was a cheerleader in high school, and also sang in a local band in Lubbock.
When the sisters heard Natalie, they knew that they had found their new singer.
Okay, so they're famous. But are they musically excellent? There are plenty of famous people who really aren't excellent - even from Texas (see: Anna Nicole Smith).
What makes the Chicks excellent is their talent. They sing like angels, and the sisters are not just good musicians - they are both virtuoso musicians. The chicks lyrics have grown up with their fans. Unlike most "pop" groups, they aren't milking a "formula" - they are still a work in progress. Their music itself has become more complex and diverse.
They don't like the Dixie Chicks in Lubbock these days, because of Natalie's opinion about the President and the war. But they didn't like Buddy Holley up there when he was around. People in Lubbock tend to be a little bit more parsimonious than the rest of us here in Texas. I am sure that someday they will build a big statue to honor the Dixie Chicks somewhere in Lubbock. Right now they're still talking shit on the country stations up there.
The Dixie Chicks deserve to be in the H.O.M.E. - they are musically excellent. CINDY MILLER