When Natalie Maines remarked at a London concert on March 10, 2003 that she was "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas," the Dixie Chicks were dropped from playlists at many radio stations and subjected to attacks on their character, even death threats. This song finds them standing up for themselves and refusing to back down from their statements. They might be willing to forgive at some point, but they're never going to forget.
Dan Wilson from the group Semisonic wrote this song with the Dixie Chicks. The collaboration came about when Rick Rubin, who was working with Wilson on his 2005 solo album Free Life and also on the Chicks' album Taking The Long Way, teamed them up. Wilson drove from Los Angeles to Santa Monica, on the way thinking up an idea for a song called "Undivided," which would find the trio singing about the things that unite Americans. When Wilson shared the idea during their first songwriting session, Natalie Maines asked, "Does that mean that in the song, we would have to forgive all the people that screwed us?"
"For the song, maybe," Wilson replied.
With a clear idea of what they were looking for, Wilson started working on what became "Not Ready to Make Nice."
Emily Robison said: "The stakes were definitely higher on that song. We knew it was special because it was so autobiographical, and we had to get it right. We've all gone through so many emotions about the incident. We talked for days with Dan before putting pen to paper, and he really helped get inside our heads and put these feelings out. And once we had this song done, it freed us up to do the rest of the album without that burden."
Natalie Maines added: "We tried to write about the incident a few times, but you get nervous that you're being too preachy or too victimized or too nonchalant. Dan came in with an idea that was some kind of concession, more 'can't we all just get along?' and I said, nope, I can't say that, can't do it. And we talked about it, and he said, what about "I'm not ready to make nice?" From the outside, normal people really weren't aware of how bizarre and absurd it got. Dan was really good at clueing in to that, saying something that didn't back down, but still had a vulnerability to it. This album was therapy. To write these songs allowed me to find peace with everything and move on." (quotes from a publicity release)
The title is something Dan Wilson's mother used to say to him when she wasn't yet ready to forgive his latest misdeed.
At an earlier songwriting session, Dan Wilson wrote "So Hard" with Dixie Chicks (he co-wrote six songs on the album). That night, he started writing "Not Ready to Make Nice" in his hotel room. The next day, he came into the studio, Village Recorders, with part of a verse:
Forgive, sounds good
I made my bed I sleep just fine in it
They say time heals everything
I'm still waiting
And a piece of chorus:
I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to calm down
The ladies loved the idea, and the four of them attacked the song, as Wilson says, "Four lions who had just spotted a large herd of gazelles on the savannah." By the end of the day, they had the demo completed.
Rick Rubin, famous for his work with Slayer, LL Cool J and Jay-Z, produced this track. Rubin recalls an empowering atmosphere in the studio when they were recording the track, which makes a strong statement about standing tall amid adversity.
This won Grammy Awards for both Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year, and Taking The Long Road
also won for Album Of The Year. It was the first Country song to win in the Record Of The Year category and the first to win Song Of The Year since "Always On My Mind
" in 1983. Lady Antebellum matched the feat at the 2011 awards with "Need You Now
This single had a surge in sales of paid digital downloads after the group were featured on the television broadcast of the 2007 Grammy Awards. It originally peaked at #23 in its original US chart run in the summer of 2006. The single re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #4 in February 2007. This huge leap in sales meant that the song tied with "Control Myself" by LL Cool J and Jennifer Lopez as the highest re-entry in the history of the Billboard singles chart. "Control Myself" re-entered at #4 the previous year.
Veteran director Sophie Muller, who worked with the Chicks on "Top of the World," directed the music video that finds the trio struggling against censorship. Natalie is chastised by a teacher for trying to speak up and eventually lands in a mental institution. The video broke the record for the longest run at #1 on VH1's VSpot Top 20 Countdown, where it spent 15 weeks at the top (14 consecutive).
The song's co-writer Dan Wilson recorded his own version of the song for his 2017 album Re-Covered
, where he re-interpreted many of the songs he wrote for other artists. In a Songfacts interview
, he talked about reworking "Not Ready To Make Nice." Said Wilson: "That one really scared me, because the Chicks' version was so definitive, and Natalie is such a giant as a singer. I'm a much more low-key singer, and her epic passion is untouchable for me, so I was intimated to do that version."