"Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."
-Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks and Texas native, during a March 2003 concert in London.
Personally, I never got too outraged over Natalie's comments. In fact, I just rolled my eyes thinking "Nat, we don't give a squat what you think. Thanks for sharing though."
However, the country music scene itself did not take kindly to Maines' remarks. With their fan base primarily in states where President Bush's popularity is highest, people responded by destroying Dixie Chicks CDs and boycotting the concerts. Some radio stations even refused to play the Chicks' songs.
After a self-imposed three year exile, the Dixie Chicks are releasing a new CD this week. The first single off the album "Taking the Long Way" is a little ditty entitled "Not Ready to Make Nice." The song is essentially a response to what they say was the intolerance and hatred they faced for expressing their opinion.
People trashed some of your CDs in their own expression of free speech. It's called a dissenting viewpoint. Radio stations refused to play your music. It's nothing personal, just business. Radio stations need listeners in order to stay afloat. So if the listeners demand to not hear the Dixie Chicks' music for whatever reason, the station will make a decision that will most benefit their bottom line.
Doug Powers nailed it in a column he wrote shortly after the March 2003 incident.
Bruce Springsteen has said that a radio station not playing a song because of the artists political views is "un-American," and that the Chicks were simply exercising their basic American right of free speech (exercising it in a gym on the other side of the Atlantic, but that's another story).
If the chairman of McDonalds came out and said "hamburgers suck," would Bruce Springsteen come and support his free-speech rights after he got fired? Doubtful. He'd probably agree that it was a dumb thing to say, given his position. For some reason, with musicians and actors, "artist" is the only career in which you should be allowed to open your blithering yapper free of consequence. "Free speech" is a two-way street, and if you use it, you'd better be prepared to dodge oncoming traffic.
Given the sharp decline in the Dixie Chicks' album sales, it appears they have become the entertainment version of road kill.