It's a sad, sad story
When a mother will teach her daughter
That she ought to hate
A perfect stranger
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Natalie Maines c 2006
(thanks, Ron Baker)
The great state of Texas has a rich history, full of victory and tragedy. Many celebrities have hailed from the 2nd biggest state in the union – including Buddy Holly – and one which almost became its own independent republic. Texans are known across the nation as being proud, aggressive, and strong – yet also generous, warm-hearted, and (in this writer’s opinion) some of the best drivers in the country. But what happens when these hostile people disagree? One result is that the world knows about the disagreement.
Lubbock is located in the northwestern part of the state, a region known as Llano Estacado, and has a population of a quarter-million people. It’s been named the Hub City because it’s the economic, education, healthcare center of the South Plains. The town was originally settled during the period of western expansion in the late 1800s, but wasn’t officially founded until 1890 when two smaller towns – Monterey and Old Lubbock – merged and opted to keep the name.
Downtown Lubbock, Texas c 2005
(thanks, Brad Johnson)
In 2003, Natalie Maines, lead vocalist for the alternative country band The Dixie Chicks (from Lubbock, Texas), exercised her First Amendment right of free speech during a performance on stage in London. She said, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with ya’ll. We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” Her off-hand comment should’ve been brushed off, if not condoned given the circumstances at the time: American troops fighting over oil in a Middle Eastern country we had no business being involved with.
The backlash was astounding and unpredictable, as radio DJs across Texas and the Bible Belt yanked the band’s music from the airwaves. Public outcry grew to the point where the band received hundreds of death threats every day. Maines spoke her opinion. She didn’t break the law. More importantly, she didn’t say anything that was untrue. The Bush Administration faced controversy after controversy during their tenure in office and Maines hadn’t misstated any facts. Just as any of us is allowed to feel a certain way about something, so is she. Yet, millions boycotted the Dixie Chicks’ music because of a few words.
The band took a hiatus to be with family, away from the spotlight, and to write and record their follow-up, 2006’s Taking the Long Way
, which featured the first single (and the band’s biggest hit as of the date of this writing), "Not Ready to Make Nice." The song chronicled Maines’ feelings during the political dispute a few years earlier. A documentary, entitled Shut Up and Sing
, was pulled directly out of the lyrics, told the story: 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?
Texas Tech University in Lubbock
(thanks, Johan Hendrikse)
Interestingly enough, the Associated Press reported Merle Haggard, another country musician, as saying, “I don’t even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in the past wars, when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching.” Bruce Springsteen and Madonna also came out in support of the band and their right to free speech. Taking the Long Way
went on to win all 5 Grammys for which they were nominated, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year, and "Not Ready to Make Nice" won Song of the Year. But their following tour suffered canceled dates in much of the same areas where three years earlier they had been banned and boycotted. I attended one of their shows in Philadelphia that summer and I was saddened to see a half-empty arena in the city in which the Bill of Rights was composed. The influence of mass-media affected listeners and fans across the nation, even in the more liberal cities.
A decade later, US
Magazine interviewed Maines – now performing solo – about her 2003 president bashing. She said, “To me, I was right from the beginning, because it’s my right as an American to speak up and question our President, have my point of view, have my opinion, question what I want to question, and say what I want to say about our government. It’s very scary to me that people actually think we should just follow our leaders. If we can’t learn from our history, we’re nowhere.”
~ Justin Novelli
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