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Shut Up and Sing

Last night I was just going to watch a few minutes of the documentary about the boycotting of the Dixie Chicks, Shut Up and Sing , but I ended up watching the whole thing, going to bed too late. It’s an imperfect documentary about imperfect people, which is why I loved it.

I didn’t used to be in the DC’s demographic. I’m a totally stereotypical northeastern liberal Jew, predictable down to my preference for iceberg lettuce and whining about sunburn. And that means I don’t much like country music (although I was brought up on folk music). I only started paying attention to the DC’s once their fans turned against them because Natalie Maines, the lead singer, uttered a single line critical of our president. Now, some celebrities have been brought down by using a single word, but generally those words have indicated an intolerance that we (thankfully) no longer tolerate. But Maines only said she’s ashamed of our president. That’s well within the range of political discourse. Economically punishing people you disagree with makes democracy worse, not better, imo — although I know many of you disagree. (As for Maines criticizing the president while outside of the US, the notion that we need to put on a fake, unified face for our allies strikes me as being ashamed of what’s best about democracy.)

The documentary makes it clear that Maines is a big mouth. Nothing wrong with that. Heck, some of my best friends and bloggers are big mouths. She said that one sentence from the heart, in the heat of the moment — London had just seen its largest-ever anti-war demonstration — and, as she acknowledges, to get a rise from the audience. Life is complex, and the documentary’s willingness to acknowledge this is a real plus.

Seeing the DC’s embrace the consequences of Maines’ single sentence, growing as people, citizens and musicians, is moving precisely because the growth is contingent and painful. This isn’t a matter of riding some bromide. They feel their way. They’re pushed and they react, sometimes with anger, sometimes with sadness, sometimes with their instruments. They may be insanely talented millionaire musicians, but it’s easy to connect with them as bullies shove them off their accustomed path.

The DC’s are great musicians and singers. I would never have found them if their politics hadn’t snagged me. I am, I believe, part of their new demographic.

(Disclosure: I got sent a free copy of the DVD as part of a blogging marketing campaign. I was planning on renting it anyway.)

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7 Responses to “Shut Up and Sing”

  1. Just a wonderful post about the Dixie Chicks. You put my thoughts into great words. I too had not been a fan til I heard Natalie’s comment. Now I listen to “Not Ready to Make Nice” as I go through my email. I’m so glad for their well deserved success! Thank you for taking the time to write about them.

  2. I hate to rain on the parade of the Dixie Chicks, but…

    Merle Hasn’t Lost His Fightin’ Side
    Dr BLT (c)2007
    http://www.drblt.net/music/MerleVeryLast.mp3

    somebody behind the Grammys scene was:

    Playin’ Politics with the Dixie Chicks
    Not Ready to Make Rice
    Dr BLT (c) 2007
    http://www.drblt.net/music/DixieChicks.mp3

    and they’re

    Not Ready to Make Rice
    Dr BLT (c) 2007
    http://www.drblt.net/music/MakeRice.mp3

  3. you’re a jew? i wish you had disclosed that sooner.

  4. Bravo to all of the fans that stood by the Dixie Chicks during the last 4 years. In a country where talent is appreciated, it was refreshing to know that the majority of America still consists of rational, sensible and truly kind people. I was inspired to watch ‘Shut up and Sing’ after the Grammy Awards and after the music industry solidly rewarded the Dixie Chicks for their music. It was hard not to wonder how the band managed through such backlash. I’m not a country music fan, but I have always listened whenever the Dixie Chicks were playing on the radio, on tv or the Superbowl or any other medium of music pre-2003 and unfortunately never post-2003. Flatly stated, the group is musically talented with intelligent lyrics in a genre of lackluster and mediocrity (country music). Further, that the country music fans blacklisted a band simply because a bandmember disagreed with the policy of an incompetant leader (not my opinoin, but that of 64% of the country) demonstrates that the country music industry is quite accepting of such mediocrity – not only in its musicians but also in what fans believe is fit leadership.

    I’m baffled and appalled at the ignorance and lack of creativity of country music fans (e.g. claim of treason…in a democracy? retorting to FUTK with FUDC? throwing out CDs? you silly people…through the act of destroying the free speech of others, you’ve stepped on the very fabric of the U.S. Constitution.)

    It was Marty who said it well, that ‘this was the best thing that could have happened to the Dixie Chicks’.

    Sometimes it takes turning your world upside down to demonstrate why you’re doing what you’re doing and who it is you’re truly doing it for. Bravo to everyone who supported the band since day one. You made their story a deserving one.

  5. dAl5c9 A number of universities have awarded her honorary degrees, and she earned a prestigious job on the staff of Detroit congressman John Conyers. In 1988 Roxanne Brown noted: “Thirty-two years after she attracted international attention for sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mrs. Parks’s ardent devotion to human rights still burns brightly, like a well-tended torch that ignites her spirit and calls her to service whenever she is needed.”

  6. I hope that now that the economy is suffering, musicians will use their music to ameliorate suffering. I tried to do that with this song:

    This is one song I’m working on for my own CD, Ice and Snow:

    Long Road to Christmas
    Dr BLT
    words and music by Dr BLT copyright 2008
    http://www.drblt.net/music/LongRoadDemo2.mp3

    By the way, this song about the impact of the economy on the prospect of Christmas is from the forthcoming CD, Ice and Snow:
    http://www.drblt.net

  7. I used to be a big fan of the Dixie Chicks, until they made that announcement. Who is she, to say they are embarrassed that the President (Bush) is from Texas. You people, as a whole elected this man for not one, but two terms as President and now look at your economy. The statement should of read”We, as Americans are embarrassed we elected this President for two terms”…..I am a Canadian, but I do love to watch politics. I can’t even imagine being from the South, what they are thinking of President Obama!!!!! You are “entertainers”, stick to what you know. A lost fan.


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