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The Natalie Maines and Toby Keith Feud: What Happened Between The Country Stars

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It's hard forget the controversy that went down surrounding The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks) in 2003 that resulted in the blacklisting of their music. This controversy was also tied into a feud between The Chicks and fellow Nashville country singer Toby Keith. Here's a breakdown of what happened between the two artists.

The Beginnings of the Feud

Before The Chicks' lead singer Natalie Maines shared her opinion about the Iraq War and the President of the United States, which resulted in their music being banned from country radio stations across the country, The Maines/Keith feud was sparked by a comment the singer made about Keith's 2002 song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)."  The song was written and released after the death of Keith's veteran father and the September 11, 2001 attacks. The song is unapologetic, with Keith essentially singing his opinion about the actions the US should take, most notably singing, "We'll put a boot in your a-- it's the American way." Maines shared her opinion about the song and Keith as a songwriter with the Los Angeles Times in 2002.

"I hate it," she said at the time. "It's ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant. It targets an entire culture - and not just the bad people who did bad things. You've got to have some tact. Anybody can write, 'We'll put a boot in your a--.' But a lot of people agree with it. The kinds of songs I prefer on the subject are like Bruce Springsteen's new songs."

Not long after that comment, Maines shared her opinion on the invasion of Iraq and President George W. Bush during a tour stop in London, England in March 2003. "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas," she told the crowd. This comment led to massive backlash in the United States, with country radio stations banning their music and the group taking a step back from the spotlight.

Read More: 'Landslide': The Story Behind the 1975 Fleetwood Mac Classic and The Chicks' Country Cover

Furthering the Rift

After Maines' comments about his song and the war, Keith kept their feud going by displaying a fake photo of Maines next to Saddam Hussein at his concerts. Maines then fired back at Keith by wearing a t-shirt with the letters "F.U.T.K." onstage at the Academy of Country Music Awards, which many saw as a jab at Keith. At the time, the trio said the letters stood for "Friends United in Truth and Kindness," but Maines later confirmed in the trio's documentary, Shut Up And Sing, that the shirt did mean what most people thought, according to Taste of Country.

Like many things, the Natalie Maines/Toby Keith feud eventually fizzled out, with Keith announcing he was done with it after watching a friend go through his child's cancer battle. "I saw a picture on the cover of Country Weekly with a picture of me and Natalie and it said, 'Fight to the Death' or something. It seemed so insignificant. I said, 'Enough is enough,'" he said in 2003. After taking a break, the Chicks came back in 2006 with their single "Not Ready To Make Nice" from their Taking The Long Way album, which addressed the backlash they received after Maines shared her opinion, but did not directly address the controversy with Keith. The song peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to win three Grammy Awards.

Toby Keith has gone on to release many more studio albums since the feud and still somewhat participates in the political conversation. The singer and Ricky Skaggs recently received the National Medal of the Arts from former President Trump in January 2021.

The Chicks, made up of Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire in addition to Maines, have also gone on to make more music, and returned in 2020 with new album, Gaslighter. The trio also continue to sing about the issues they care about and performed the National Anthem at the Democratic National Convention in August 2020.


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The Natalie Maines and Toby Keith Feud: What Happened Between The Country Stars