Sixteen Years Later, Country Radio Is Still Mad at the Dixie Chicks

Their appearance on Taylor Swift’s “Soon You’ll Get Better” is prompting angry comments and calls from radio listeners still upset about their anti-Iraq-War stance.
Chicago, US
Country Radio Listeners Are Still Mad at the Dixie Chicks

In March 2003, Dixie Chicks' lead singer Natalie Maines stood onstage in London and said, "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 the president of the United States is from Texas." Her statements, made weeks before the United States invaded Iraq, brought in an overwhelming amount of controversy. Even though Maines apologized to then-President Bush, the trio's music was banned from country radio, fans staged "protests" where CDs were run over by bulldozers, Dixie Chick Emily Robinson's home was vandalized, and the band would have to use metal detectors at shows thanks to several death threats. The band's career never fully recovered.

While there are several arguments to be made that history vindicated Maines' and her bandmates' anti-war sentiments, as well as the fact that this all happened 16 years ago, there's still some pushback in country music circles against the Dixie Chicks. The latest controversy comes from the trio's guest appearance on Taylor Swift's song “Soon You’ll Get Better." While it's reasonable to assume that any contention with the track has to do with how the Dixie Chicks are criminally underutilized as backing vocalists, the actual drama is far more silly.

According to Rolling Stone, country radio listeners are leaving angry comments and calling into several stations because they are hopping mad the Dixie Chicks are returning to radio. The piece interviews Portland Country DJ Mike Chase, who explains that "Soon You'll Get Better" is a song about Swift's mother's struggle with cancer. After the station played it, he recalls the fan reaction: "We played the song and also posted it on our Facebook page. One woman [commented by saying] her grandmother had died ten minutes prior to us playing it. And right after that, some guy goes, ‘I guess it would be better if Taylor wasn’t ramming her politics down my throat.’ We thought, 'wow: what a study in extremes.'”

It gets worse. At Houston's KKBQ, Johnny Chiang, Director of Operations for Cox Media Group Houston, found that listeners never complained about the actual song; rather, they only complained about the Dixie Chicks' inclusion. He explains, “After just four plays of the song, we had several complaints from listeners. They weren’t complaining about the song — they were complaining about the Dixie Chicks. You can’t even tell [they’re on the song]. The backing vocals are so benign you can barely hear them.” Sixteen years later, it seems like the Dixie Chicks still can't shake this grudge.