Monday, August 26, 2019

‘a gorgeous, beautiful song …’

… is how country music star Taylor Swift described it in a 2011 concert. She was referring to one of the Dixie Chicks’ signature songs, Cowboy take me away. Here is Swift doing an acoustical version..

And here are the Dixie Chicks doing the original version with lots of backup.

Disclosure: My little piece of culture was motivated by today’s Washington Post story, Why Taylor Swift’s collaboration with the Dixie Chicks is so significant (August 26).

But there is more to the story.

The short story

You may recall that lead singer of the Chicks Natalie Maines took George W. Bush to task for starting the Iraq war. She did that publicly on stage in London in 2003. She was right and Dubya was oh so wrong. The Chicks took a big hit for their criticism of a war based on cooked up intelligence. (Think not? Watch the movie about Dick Cheney, Vice.) Their fan base dried up as the cowboy hat types left and abandoned them.

The longer story

From the Post’s story last year: After the Trump-Putin news conference, here’s why people are talking about the Dixie Chicks.

For those who don’t recall the controversy: In March 2003, the Dixie Chicks — Natalie Maines, along with sisters Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire — were one of the most successful acts in country music history. While on tour in London promoting their hit album “Home,” Maines started bantering with the audience at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. It was the eve of the Iraq War.

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all,” Maines said to the crowd. “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

The Guardian published her comments, and when the quotes made their way back home to the United States, they caused a firestorm. Country radio stations were deluged with phone calls from fans to stop playing their music. Some protesters destroyed their CDs. Their tour sponsor dropped out. They got death threats.

The trio, who released one more Grammy-winning album (with the pointed song “Not Ready to Make Nice”) before going their separate ways, was effectively blacklisted by the country music industry.

… the one element that really struck a nerve was the fact that Maines had criticized a U.S. president while abroad. …

After President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s news conference Monday in Helsinki, in which Trump called the United States “foolish” and sided with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies that said Russia interfered in the 2016 election, social media had plenty to say. …

So now that Trump has openly criticized U.S. intelligence agencies while in Europe, the comparisons are rolling in. …

For example: “Remember when Republicans were incensed about American citizens criticizing America on foreign soil? I bet The Dixie Chicks do. I know I do.”

… Maines is still defiantly talking about politics.

“You are guilty of something,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, linking to a picture of Trump. “So arrogant and scared. A weak coward. Admiring and capitulating to a much smarter dictator.”

The first reply: “And to think you guys were vilified for something that pales in comparison to what he did today.”

All that may be why I have such a strong attachment to that song.

Rumor has it that the Chicks are working on their first album in 13 years.

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