I had always loved the bluegrass/roots based music of the Dixie Chicks, but after the recent corporate-organized attempt to boycott them, I felt it was almost a duty to get tickets and see their show. They are now on a national tour, dubbed the Top of the World Tour, hitting 12 cities this summer.

When they hit Cleveland, I immediately called for tickets, only to be told they were already sold out! That was certainly surprising for a group that the corporate media was busy telling us was falling in popularity, whose fans were leaving them, whose music sales were dropping. All this was supposedly occurring because Natalie Maines, the Chicks’ main vocalist, had told a London audience that they were “ashamed W is from our home state, Texas!”

It was possibly the most intense concert I’ve ever attended, and that counts going thru the ’60s. The crowd was a regular country music crowd, with cowboy boots and hats, work shirts and baseball caps, but there “regular” ended! As the trio began to play, the cheers were literally deafening! The crowd rose to their feet and stayed up until the last song ended. Unlike so much of the pre-packaged pap that corporate Nashville has fed the public as “country music,” what we heard were beautiful, original ballads, like the anti-war “Traveling Soldier,” and slamming roots songs like “Long Time Gone.”

The climax of the night came when Natalie spoke to the crowd of “the incident that happened a couple months ago,” which brought on huge cheers. She spoke about the need to stand up for what is right and have integrity. More cheers, louder! They then broke into a song about standing up for justice. While they played, a massive video played above, showing civil rights marchers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, union picket lines, women suffragist marchers and a picket line with signs “Censorship is un-American!” The cheers were deafening!

I felt as though I’d waited my entire life to see this concert! As our ears nearly burst from the cheers, emotion welled up in me. Looking around at the cheering, laughing, yelling crowd, my thoughts were of the people I’d grown up with, listening to country music in that small farm community on the Indiana-Ohio border.

Nowhere was there any evidence of the corporate media’s “angry fans,” but that didn’t stop the local TV station from making them up. The local TV reported “some boos” when they played the protest video. This was at the time the audience cheered loudest, when many were even in tears!

Absolute, disgusting liars these corporate hirelings are! It is certainly understandable, though, from their point of view. These three women are the worst nightmares corporate Nashville, Bush and his cronies have yet seen! Three very strong, progressive, extremely intelligent and creative, very sexy southern women, with a massive following among rural working folks, the folks Bush and co. would like to claim as their base.

From the beginning they came into conflict with the corporate Nashville establishment. Told that they should have their music conform to the Nashville cookie-cutter pattern, they were quoted as saying “the last time we looked banjos and fiddles were country instruments!” The Dixie Chicks, far from being just a “pretty girl group,” fought from the beginning for their right to play the music of their west Texas home. Their well-publicized fight with Sony, their label, was over cultural integrity as much as the monies from royalties.

It is that real roots music that corporate Nashville has worked to cover over and smother. Banjos and fiddles were, in fact, the first American traditional instruments. The banjo being of African origin, brought here by slaves and the fiddle an instrument of Scotch-Irish immigrants. Corporate Nashville, working with the right-wing media, have worked overtime to steal these traditions and deliver a milquetoast mash of sap to the public, calling it “country.”

In “Long Time Gone” the Chicks sing: “We listen to the radio to hear what’s cookin’/But the music ain’t got no soul/Now they sound tired but they don’t sound Haggard/They got money but they don’t have Cash/They got junior but they don’t have Hank/I think … I think … I think … the rest is/Longtime gone.”

They have been no strangers to controversy throughout their career. Conservatives and right-wing religious groups blasted their previous CD over “Earl,” a song about women friends who have to rescue a battered girlfriend from an abusive husband, by killing him. “Earl’s gotta die,” they sang! They didn’t back up then, or at any other fight throughout their career, and they won’t back up now!

What makes these three, strong women even more dangerous to Bush and the right is that they are not alone. While they are more vocal, in some cases, other country stars are bucking the right-wing Nashville establishment. Fellow Texan Willie Nelson, for years a leader in the movement to support family farmers, recently announced that he would do a series of concerts supporting Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) for president. Travis Tritt had the wonderful, pro-worker hit song “God Save the Working Man.” Steve Earle and others are laboring, less in the limelight, supporting progressive causes. Furthermore, far from losing fan support, recent reports stated that their sales were up and that their entire tour is already sold out!

Recently a right-wing radio host stated that they were just speaking out to open doors for them to become a “crossover” group, appealing to people in other cultural areas. Ironically, I think he was partially right! With his limited view, I’m sure he has absolutely no idea what a magnificent, massive crossover toward unity of the American people he was referring to!

– Bruce Bostick (bruce@admiral.cc)

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