The One Moment That Derailed The Dixie Chicks' Career

It's been a banner year for country powerhouse act The Chicks (formerly known as Dixie Chicks). At the end of June, citing the need to "meet this moment," as The New York Times reported, the band announced it was dropping the word 'Dixie' from the name. While the trio (composed of sisters Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire, and Natalie Maines) didn't elaborate much more, the decision to distance themselves from a word long associated with a romanticized vision of the Old South, fit right in line with their political views.

Long seen as among the more progressive country acts, The Chicks' 2020 rebrand, while not universally lauded, was largely met with praise on social media, per Glamour. If The Chicks were ready to meet this moment, America, it seemed, was finally ready to meet The Chicks halfway. But 17 years ago, the group experienced a very different reaction when making what many people considered to be an inappropriate political statement, and spent years suffering the consequences of it.

To hear Maines tell it, the moment that would result in a de facto country radio ban of their music and public record-burning parties wasn't particularly extraordinary. Walking out on the stage of an intimate, 2,000-seat venue in London called Shepherd's Bush Empire, Maines began by making some small talk with the audience. As she explained to Allure earlier this year, "I wanted the audience to know who we were and what we were about."

The moment that derailed the Dixie Chicks' career

Perhaps it was being in front of a foreign crowd, or a desire to distance themselves from the country performer stereotype, but Maines felt it was important to tell that London crowd, "[W]e're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence." What Maines was referring to were the then-increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iraq, which would erupt into an American-led invasion and the Iraq War just a week later. While many fans may have been upset by this, it wasn't until Maines went on to slight then-President George W. Bush by adding, "And we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas" that the full backlash began.

Reaction from country music fans was swift. According to, country radio stations were flooded with calls from angry listeners who demanded a boycott of the group's music, including signature hits like "There's Your Trouble" and "Cowboy Take Me Away." In a 2006 interview with CBS, the trio recounted how they received chilling death threats that mentioned specific members, dates, locations, and weapons. And while the band initially issued an apology after the incident, in the following years, they retracted it because, as Maines explained, "We don't make decisions based on [public opinion]. We don't go, 'OK, our fans are in the red states, so I'm going play a red, white and blue guitar and put on my I Love Bush T-shirt."

A new name and a new respect for The Chicks

The Chicks' first foray back into the spotlight was a powerful one. In 2006, they released the single "Not Ready To Make Nice," which included pointed references to what they had been through, coupled with a steadfast refusal to budge on their principles. "Forgive, sounds good/Forget, I'm not sure I could," sang Maines in the opening lines of what would be the group's first single to chart after the 2003 incident in London.

In the years since, the band members have gone on to take time off, get married, divorced, and raise families, as Allure reported in March 2020. And while the break was an extended one, The Chicks seem to have not lost any ground. In July, the band released the album Gaslighter, featuring the socially conscious single "March, March" along with the cutting title track, to what Metacritic says is widespread acclaim. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Country Album Chart. Not bad for a group that came so close to losing it all.