By Tom Comi
Eight years after lead singer Natalie Maines made controversial comments about being embarrassed to hail from the same state (Texas) as then-President George W. Bush, the group is still feeling the effects. On Saturday, March 26 at 9pm ET/PT, CMT re-airs the 2006 documentary Shut Up & Sing, which details the trio’s dramatic fall from the top of the charts.
Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson went from being the top-selling female group of all time to receiving death threats and having their songs banned by country music radio stations across America. Many of their fans turned on them instantly, collectively agreeing to boycott their music moving forward.
For those who don’t recall how it all went down, Maines — while performing on stage on the night the United States invaded Iraq — voiced her disapproval with President Bush’s decision. Her comments instantly went viral through the media and the Internet, and the fame, popularity and fortune that they group had enjoyed to that moment was in jeopardy.
This documentary follows the Dixie Chicks from the height of their success to the rock-bottom level they hit after that fateful evening. And whether you are or were a fan of the group at the time, the controversy sparked many interesting debates around the country.
First, because we are a country that was founded on the right to free speech, was it fair to punish the Dixie Chicks for exercising that right? The flip side of that is that all Americans have that same freedom, which means radio stations and music enthusiasts were also justified in expressing their opinion by choosing to boycott the trio’s music.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve never quite understood why musicians, actors, athletes and other celebrities find the need to express their political opinions to the rest of the world. Whether one agrees with Maines’ comment or not, she did her group and her fans an injustice by using her singing stage as a political platform.
I realize that these artists are defined by more than the talent that made them famous, but the sad reality for The Dixie Chicks is that they would still be one of the most popular groups in the world if Maines on that particular night had simply chosen to shut up and sing.