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'Not Ready to Make Nice': The Story Behind The Chicks' Triumphant Response To Controversy

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pojL_35QlSI

Anyone who has an interest in country music history can't easily forget the controversy surrounding The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks) that occurred in the early 2000s. The year was 2003 and The Chicks were riding a career high after releasing seven years of hit songs, including "Wide Open Spaces," "Cowboy Take Me Away," "Goodbye Earl," "Travelin' Soldier," and more. On the fateful night that sparked the controversy, the trio, comprised of Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer (formerly Emily Robison) and Martie Maguire, were playing a show in London, England on their Top of the World Tour. While onstage, lead singer Maines shared her opinion about current politics, including her opposition to the invasion of Iraq and being "ashamed" to be from the same state as then-President George W. Bush (Texas).

These statements soon spread across the world, and the backlash from country fans and country radio programmers was severe. The group was effectively blacklisted from country radio stations, with their single "Landslide" falling 33 chart spots in one week. Country DJs at one station were suspended for playing the band's music, and another station received 250 calls in one day to complain about Maines' comment about the President of the United States. The group even received death threats. The controversy also stoked the fires of their feud with fellow artist Toby Keith.

After this career-altering event, The Chicks stepped back and returned with their carefully-crafted response in the form of their 2006 single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," from their Taking The Long Way album. In this song, written by band members Maines, Strayer and Maguire along with songwriter Dan Wilson, The Chicks sing their truth about the situation in a way that can still be enjoyed as a standalone song. The moral of the track is simple -- that The Chicks will not back down and they're not quite ready to forgive what happened to them.

"I'm not ready to make nice, I'm not ready to back down, I'm still mad as hell, and I don't have time to go 'round and 'round and 'round / It's too late to make it right, I probably wouldn't if I could 'cause I'm mad as hell, can't bring myself to do what it is you think I should," sings Maines in the chorus.

Read More: 'Travelin' Soldier': The Story Behind The Chicks' Heartbreaking Story Song

Wilson was the writer who brought the idea to the group reportedly from something his mother used to say, and Maines said writing the song was "therapy."

"He said, what about 'I'm not ready to make nice?'" said Maines about writing the song. "From the outside, normal people really weren't aware of how bizarre and absurd it got. Dan was really good at clueing in to that, saying something that didn't back down, but still had a vulnerability to it. This album was therapy. To write these songs allowed me to find peace with everything and move on."

While some naysayers were most likely upset by the song, the track was a hit for the group, landing at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earning 2x Platinum status. "Not Ready to Make Nice" was also highly-awarded, winning Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 2007. The Taking The Long Way album, which was the ninth best-selling album in the US, also took home two Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Country Album.

The track's official music video is also memorable, as it serves as a metaphor for what they experienced. Maines and the group also allude to the controversy in the album's track, "The Long Way Around," which features reference to their song, "Long Time Gone." An accompanying documentary was also released in 2006 called Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, which follows the three women through the scrutiny.

Since the storm that embroiled them in 2003 and the release of "Not Ready to Make Nice," The Chicks have continued their successful career, embarking on their DCX MMXVI World Tour in 2016, and most recently, releasing their eighth studio album, Gaslighter, in July 2020.

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'Not Ready to Make Nice': The Story Behind The Chicks' Triumphant Response To Controversy