DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING (2006) – Documentary Retroview

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The Dixie Chicks’ popularity plummeted after main singer Natalie Maines made an off the cuff comment about the Iraq War. This documentary, directed by Barbara Kopple, chronicles the group’s efforts to reclaim their place in the hearts of their fans and at the top of the music charts.

Make Music Not War

In 2003, addressing a packed audience at Shepherd’s Bush in London, Dixie Chick lead singer Natalie Maines, after singing the country group’s chart-topping Travelin’ Soldier, commented that she’s against the war in Iraq and ashamed that the current US President is from Texas, her home state.

The British crowd cheered in support of her off-the-cuff quip. But, in America, celebrity-crazed media churned it and conservative politicos spun it, and–-although Maines apologized for her impromptu remarks, proclaiming her patriotism and emphasizing that she supports US troops–-the group’s record sales crashed, radio stations shunned their music and former fans actually steamrollered over previously treasured Dixie Chick CDs. Maines even received a terrifying death threat.

The Dixie Chicks were called anti-American, traitors, Dixie Sluts–to which they responded with a stylish Entertainment Weekly cover showing their semi-nude torsos adorned with black letters spelling out the slurs with which they’d been branded.

Meeting the Maine Stream

Shut Up and Sing documents all of the appalling censorship and persecution of The Dixie Chicks, and then shows how the Texas trio entrenched themselves, withstood the flak and made more music, weathering the Sturm und emerging from the Drang as feistier, more mature artists with greater self awareness and a different, broader fan base.

Their victory is attributable to musical talent and personal charm, no doubt. And to the three–Maines, Martie McGuire and Emily Robison–-sticking together in sisterhood, stalwartly determined to stand their ground, while fully backed by their own troops–their respective families and the Dixie Chicks machine, including manager Simon Renshaw and spinmeister Cindy Berger. Of course, that Maines’ much criticized remarks now meet mainstream opinion is an important factor, too.

Filmmakers Barbara Kopple and Cecelia Peck’s cameras capture The Dixie Chicks and posse as they consistently counter anti-spin with pro-spin–-perhaps including this film, Shut Up and Sing, which was, according to Kopple, funded from the Chicks’ own nest egg.

However, as of 2006, the Dixie Chicks are making better music, have a broader fan base and a pro-Chick documentary which is well worth watching–for the drama and the music.

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