Opinion: No, Country Music Does Not Owe an Apology to The Dixie Chicks
For whatever reason, I've been thinking about the Dixie Chicks a lot lately. And I was going to post a question on Facebook, "is everyone still pissed off at the Dixie Chicks?"
Apparently, the ill will is still there.
So, let me jump-in head first. Joe Kelly recently posted an article entitled, 'Country Music Owes These Three Women an Apology.' In Joe's opinion, which I respectfully disagree with, he combines the male-dominated landscape of country music in 2019 with the loud-mouth comments that Natalie Maines made back in 2003.
I'm not sure you can equate one to the other, so let's address them individually.
17 years ago while overseas, Maines said during a concert in London, "We don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."
Those 20 words ended a career for a kick-ass country music trio.
Back in the era of Y2K, the Dixie Chicks could do no wrong. By the time Natalie Maines made her comments, the band had over a dozen top 20 hits in about seven years, and if I recall, their 'Wide Open Spaces' CD (and cassette!) went 12X platinum. Simply put, the band was on fire.
You see, in whatever field you work in, you have to know your audience. Maines said those words just two years after 9/11 and right before an invasion of Iraq. Patriotism was riding high across America. And, if I may point-out a stereotype, fans of country music are about as patriotic as they get. Go to any country concert in any city and walk around the parking lot -- it's American flags as far as the eye can see. That was especially true right after 9/11.
To say those words was one thing, but to say them half way around the world was another. It came off as a cheap shot. What she said was like taking a big stick and whacking a bee hive with it over and over. And while anyone and everyone is entitled to their opinion, just because you have a microphone doesn't mean you should say what's on your mind (and no, I'm not promoting censorship, I'm promoting common sense).
What resulted from those 20 words was an immediate boycott of their music, the band being trashed on talk radio, and images of steamrollers crushing their CDs being shown on TV.
And the political climate of early 2003 certainly didn't help the band, either. At the beginning of March, 2003, President Bush had a 57 percent job approval rating, according to Gallup. Three weeks later, President Bush's approval hit 71 percent when an invasion of Iraq was launched. His approval ratings would stay above 50 percent through the summer of 2003. With numbers like that being an indication of patriotism in America, there was little the Dixie Chicks could do.
When Maines said those words, their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" was a top ten hit. Within a week or so, that song was barely on the charts. If you want to know how crazy it got, we at Cat Country 107.3 air a weekend countdown show -- we got two versions of Bob Kingsley's show: one with their cover of "Landslide" for stations that had not boycotted their music and one version where the show simply skipped their place on the chart like it never even existed. I don't believe such a thing has happened since.
Like any other situation in life, you have to know your audience.
You are certainly entitled to believe in what you believe in and say what you want to say, but actions and words have consequences. No, country music does not owe the Dixie Chicks and apology. An apology for what? We're sorry for reacting the way we did for what you said?
Joe Kelly is right: they killed themselves. They went from performing in front of 25,000 people to being the answer to a bar-room trivia question in about nine seconds.
Joe goes on to say, "Should she have issued a crying apology and begged for forgiveness, with the American flag behind her/them? Yeah, probably."
No, I don't think it should have even gotten to that point. And I'm not sure a sobbing apology video would have worked. Maines did issue an apology on March 14th of that year, but the damage had been done and I don't think there was any way to fix it.
We're a blink-of-an-eye away from the year 2020 and trashing the President is now a national past time and the Dixie Chicks are still a 'Have You Seen Me?' band on the back of a thrown away milk carton.
And no, just because country music and country radio are currently dominated by guys doesn't give the Dixie Chicks a get out of jail free card. There are plenty of female singers and female-led bands out there just waiting for a shot and just waiting to be heard. Before we apologize to the Dixie Chicks for them being flat-out stupid, let's let those new voices rise to the top and see where they go.
Joe says, "Everyone makes mistakes. Isn't it time we forgive?"
Coming from someone who has made his fair share of mistakes, I'm not so sure about this one.