Vince Gill Defended the Dixie Chicks During 2003 Backlash
On March 10, 2003, the Dixie Chicks rocked the country music world when lead vocalist Natalie Maines said 12 little words -- "We're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas" -- at a concert in London, England. Her comment unleashed a massive backlash that included the group being banned from radio, booed at that year's ACM Awards and embroiled in a very public feud with fellow country star Toby Keith.
Political tensions were running high in country music and beyond at the time that Maines spoke out against the president: It had been less than two years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the country was on the brink of a war with Iraq. In addition to the country fans who lambasted the Chicks for Maines' comments, radio programmers and industry executives were also in an uproar, banning their music and, in at least one case, bringing in a steamroller to destroy their CDs.
Country stars spoke out against the group, too: In addition to Keith's anti-Chicks campaign, stars such as Tanya Tucker and Darryl Worley also countered Maines' viewpoints. But while many remember the negative response to the Dixie Chicks' political commentary during that time period, it's not quite true that everybody was upset by what they'd said; in fact, Vince Gill stood up for the group.
Gill was presenting the award for Entertainer of the Year award at the 2003 ACMs, a category in which the Dixie Chicks were nominated. After the outrage that followed Maines' onstage comments, it was obvious that the trio wasn't going to win, and Gill mumbled their names to rousing boos from the audience. However, he quickly chastised the crowd for their response.
"Stop it, stop it," he admonished, according to Entertainment Weekly. "You know who gets blessed when you forgive: You."
At that year's CMT Flameworthy Awards, which took place in April, Gill also called for an end to the hatred being levied at the Chicks: "There's political leaders that's said a lot worse things about George Bush than Natalie did. Nobody rips them for it, you know?" he pointed out. "I kind of feel like she's been bashed enough."
However, later in April of 2003, Gill clarified that he was simply defending Maines' right to free speech -- not saying that he agreed with her anti-Bush sentiment. "It's pretty imperative that I communicate that I held the completely opposite view of Natalie Maines," he said, according to People. "The troops and the president don't have a bigger supporter than me."
To learn more about how the comments affected the Dixie Chicks' career, press play above. The Secret History of Country Music is a weekly series by The Boot's partner site, Taste of Country.
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