"We don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
When Natalie Maines, from a London concert stage, added her voice to millions of protesters nine days before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, she also joined a long tradition of musician-prophets who use the spotlight on them to shine light on important issues. Not only were her words prophetic — “We don’t want this war, this violence” — they ring truer with every passing year of America-at-war.
After boycotts and death threats, the Dixie Chicks frontwoman turned the drama into a tour de force of music with her band mates Marty Maguire and Emily Strayer in 2006’s Taking the Long Way. The album swept the Grammys just as the Democrats rode an anti-war wave to defeat the Republicans in midterm elections.
The tumult and vindication of the mid-2000s gave way to relative quiet for the multi-instrumentalist trio. They raised children and released side projects, only playing live as a band sporadically.
But now the Dixie Chicks are back. They’re embarking on the MMXVI World Tour that will take them across the United States just as the 2016 presidential election hits the homestretch. The best-selling all-female group in recording history could be playing many of the same venues where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump hold campaign rallies.
During this divisive and increasingly ugly time in American politics, there could be no better antidote than the sassy and vocally stunning Maines. There’s no shortage of pundits and preachers decrying money in politics or the threat of authoritarianism, but how many of them can belt their proclamation like this?
Since the advent of popular music with radio broadcasting, singer-prophets have added advocacy alongside their albums: Woody Guthrie, Nina Simone, and Bruce Springsteen, to name a few. There’s something mighty powerful about someone who not only develops a powerful message, but can deliver it on pitch.
Maines joined the ranks of the great singer-prophets standing and singing against the war in Iraq, but her vocal commitments extend to many important causes including criminal justice reform, domestic violence, and LGBTQ rights. In 2013, she told USA Today, “I'm pro-gay marriage. Pro-gay everything,” and took on the NRA in a series of tweets. She has as many political opinions as #1 country singles, and has shown no signs of slowing down: She recently added Ted Cruz to the list of people she’s ashamed are from Texas.
Maines also drew attention for her successful fight to free the West Memphis Three, three men, wrongfully convicted for murder in their teens, who spent 18 years in prison before being released in 2011. During her advocacy campaign, Maines also survived a defamation lawsuit.
The Chicks have shown they’re ready to mix it up on their return to touring. During their song about domestic abuse, “Goodbye Earl,” the trio unfurled a giant poster of Donald Trump as the devil, a possible nod to old accusations of domestic abuse from Trump’s ex-wife Ivana. They’re also mixing it up musically, debuting a cover of their fellow Texan singer-prophet Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons” just days after LEMONADE dropped:
Whatever trials and tribulations come our way this election season, we can take a break from the news to sing along to “Ready to Run” when the tour arrives in our city. And we can rest assured that Maines will speak out at every tour stop.
Natalie Maines was the surprise prophet America needed in 2003, and she’s a prophet whose return we can all welcome.