The Chicks

I wanna grow something wild and unruly

Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Strayer

The Incident The Controversy

On 10th March 2003, the then Dixie Chicks played Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Natalie Maines made this statement prior to singing Travelin’ Soldier:

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.

Over the next few days, (Dixie) Chicks were dropped from airplay on radio stations in the US, their CDs were publicly burnt, record sales dropped instantly and the hate started.
In response the band featured on a cover of Entertainment Weekly, they were naked with the words and phrases they had been called painted on their skin.

The Top of the World tour continued in the US. A couple of the appalling messages that were directed to the band:
“They should send Natalie over to Iraq, strap her to a bomb and just drop her over Baghdad.”
“These are callow, foolish women who deserve to be slapped around.”
Prior to the Dallas show, Natalie received a threat, “it says that Natalie Maines will be shot dead Sunday July 6th in Dallas, Texas”. The FBI and the Texas Rangers advised the band to cancel the show. They played, they fucking played. With extra security, of course, but it must have taken a lot of guts to walk onto that stage. Martie said “standing up there you feel so naked, so naked”.

There was also support for the band from lots of people including this one:

The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves, To me, they’re terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American. The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about — namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create free speech in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home. I don’t know what happens next, but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support.

Bruce Springsteen

The band had of course been around for quite a while before this proverbial hit the fan. Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer had been playing instruments since they were small children. They formed Dixie Chicks with Laura Lynch and Robin Lynn Macy in 1989 and played mostly bluegrass. They made three albums together. Both Macy and Lynch left. Martie and Emily had worked with Lloyd Maines, father of Natalie Maines.

At 21, Natalie had also been singing since she was little and had received a vocal scholarship to Berklee College of Music but the minute she got the call from Martie and Emily towards the end of 1995, off she went the next day. From what they’ve said, it just worked straight away. They issued Wide Open Spaces in January 1998, a huge success. This was followed by Fly in August 1999, another massive success and Home in August 2002. Then came The Incident…

In 2004 (Dixie) Chicks played on the Vote for Change tour alongside Springsteen, REM and others.

2006 saw a fight back with the song Not Ready to Make Nice, on the album Taking the Long Way in May 2006. Natalie said “the people who’ve supported us are going to get more love than they’ve ever seen”.

The band returned to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in June 2006 and this is what they said:

Not Ready to Make Nice
Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I'm not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I'm still waiting
I'm through with doubt
There's nothing left for me to figure out
I've paid a price, and I'll keep paying
I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down
I'm still mad as hell, and I don't have time
To go 'round and 'round and 'round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
'Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is
You think I should
I know you said
Why can't you just get over it?
It turned my whole world around
And I kinda like it
I made my bed, and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets, and I don't mind saying
It's a sad, sad story
When a mother will teach her daughter
That she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Saying that I better
Shut up and sing
Or my life will be over?
I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down
I'm still mad as hell, and I don't have time
To go 'round and 'round and 'round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
'Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is
You think I should
I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down
I'm still mad as hell, and I don't have time
To go 'round and 'round and 'round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
'Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is
You think I should, what it is you think I should
Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I'm not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I'm still waiting

Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, Emily Robison, Dan Wilson
Not Ready to Make Nice

Later that year the movie Shut up and Sing (about The Incident/The Controversy, which is how the band refers to it) was released. It’s a great inside view to what was going on and how they were all affected. I love how bolshy Natalie is but also how Martie and Emily fully supported her, it was the three of them in it and becoming stronger together. 

The band toured in 2006, 2013-14 and 2016-17. There were long gaps for babies and divorces. In the hiatus Martie and Emily formed the Court Yard Hounds and put out Court Yard Hounds in 2010 and Amelita in 2013. Natalie also issued Mother in 2013, a collaboration with Ben Harper. All good albums but somehow lacking the magic they create as a threesome.
Natalie performing Free Life.

8th February 2013, Bruce Springsteen was awarded the MusicCares Person of the Year, Natalie played Atlantic City with Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite for whom Bruce had once opened many years previously. Unfortunately Ben drowns out Natalie on the DVD.

February 2016, North Carolina passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, also known as the “bathroom bill or HB2”. This forced transgender people to use restrooms associated with their birth certificate. Bruce Springsteen wrote about this on his website. He then cancelled his gig due to take place on 10th April in Greensboro. The Chicks took a different approach, they played Raleigh (12th August) and Charlotte (13th August), when fans walked through the gates, they were given free trucker hats emblazoned with the words “No Hate in my State” and symbols for male, female and transgender. At Raleigh, Natalie said “We have a favor to ask, since we didn’t cancel our show – you’re also the only state we bought gifts for – could you pull out the hats that we gave you? Because we love to support positivity. Peace and love.”
The law was partially repealed in 2017, a not entirely satisfactory fudge.

In 2016, Beyoncé asked The Chicks to play with her at the Country Music Association Awards. They had previously said they would not perform there but Beyoncé was a big draw for them. They performed Daddy Lessons. Following the show, there was an immediate racist backlash on social media. The CMA took the video content down because of this response for 24 hours despite the performance being hugely popular.

At the beginning of 2020, excitement was growing because a new Chicks album and tour were on the way. Then the whole world turned on its axis. Gaslighter was released, albeit later than planned and no tour anytime soon for obvious reasons. The album has a strong focus on divorce (all 3 have been through the pain of divorce) but it also has other great tracks tapping in to the zeitgeist. It’s a mature album by 3 confident women who are not afraid to speak their minds.

The band also finally changed their name to The Chicks in 2020. The word Dixie has Confederacy connotations that they were glad to be rid of. They’d been referred to as The Chicks for years and tours and merchandise over time had been using DCX as a halfway house. Sorted.

Favourite Chicks songs

I’ve followed The Chicks since the Wide Open Spaces album in 1998. It’s a huge regret that I’ve never seen them live. My copy of Home got so worn out I had to replace it! I love the band for their musicianship, all three are multi talented. Plus they’re all lovely to look at, Natalie has fabulous legs! Sex, emotion, politics, passion, love. Peace and love.

Cowboy Take Me AwayOfficial video from 1999-2000. Simply joyful
Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow)Live from the Fly Tour in 2000 (I think). Lloyd Maines, Natalie’s father, playing slide guitar
Lubbock or Leave It and Ready to RunLive on The Early Show 2nd June 2006
Prickly Thorn, but Sweetly Worn (White Stripes)Live at Ottawa Bluesfest 6th July 2013
Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus)Live in Oslo, 18th March 2014. Not Springsteen track of the same name
Truth #2 (Patty Griffin)Live from MMXVI tour in 2016. “Here’s a song about freedom of speech, having a voice and speaking out”
Mississippi (Bob Dylan)Live from MMXVI tour in 2016. Natalie has a huge vocal range and agility, she soars to heaven and beyond.
Don’t Let me Die in Florida (Patty Griffin)Live from MMXVI tour in 2016. Can see why they like Patty Griffin’s songs so much.
Sleep at NightOfficial video, 2020.
Set Me FreeOfficial audio, 2020.
Sleep at NightVideo for Jimmy Kimmel show, September 2020
For HerVideo for Time 100 Talks, September 2020, on YouTube
For HerVideo for Time 100 Talks, Sept 2020, on Natalie’s Instagram page

Main(es)ly Natalie

Natalie’s Instagram page has a lot of videos of her singing. She also takes really good photos.

Instagram videosYouTube videos
One Last Cry (Brian McKnight) 4th August 2017Mary (Patty Griffin) Patty and Natalie live at Austin Music Hall, 9th January 2005
Love in Real Life (Beth Ditto) 10th August 2017Golden State Eddie Vedder with Natalie at a benefit for the West Memphis Three. 28th August 2010
Bastards (Kesha) 27th August 2017Who I Want You To Love (Bleachers) October 2015
Praying (Kesha) 27th August 2017Like a Fool (Keira Knightley) Natalie and her niece Amelia. August 2017
Only One (Kanye West) 29th August 2017
Off to the Races (Lane Del Rey) 31st August 2017
Lover (Beth Ditto) 31st August 2017
Hunt You Down (Kesha) 16th September 2017
Rainbow (Kesha) 8th November 2017
Queer Best Friend (Adapted from Patty Griffin – Moses) 21st November 2017
Mary (Patty Griffin) 24th April 2018
You Never Get What You Want (Patty Griffin) 30th April 2018
One More Girl (Patty Griffin) 9th May 2018
Everybody Loves You (Charlotte Lawrence) 22nd May 2018
As I Lay Me Down (Kanye West) 10th October 2018
River (Patty Griffin) 14th January 2019
Angel from Montgomery (John Prine) Natalie and her sons, Slade and Beckett on this one. 8th April 2020


March 2020
Natalie and Fortune Feimster trying to use tech at the start of lockdown. Funny plus there’s the added bonus of seeing Natalie’s kitchen! Includes a bit of Wide Open Spaces. Fortune Feimster is like an antidote to Ellen de Generes. Natalie quote: “It’s the fact that people are dying and we’re being led by an imbecile.”

April 2020
“Keep going towards the good”, very funny story about what to do when a boob escapes during a solo.

July 2020
The Chicks speak to Tom Power at CBC Canada