This is not just a random walk down country controversy memory lane. It was March 10, 2003, when Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks told a crowd in London that they were "ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas," referring to George W. Bush.

She made that remark during the runup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The resulting backlash was swift and severe.

The immediate reaction was not as hostile as one would expect. The crowd cheered, and the superstar trio went to bed without a second thought about what they had just done. Within the week country radio stations in the U.S. were not only banning their music, they were renting steamrollers and hosting parties to crush all Dixie Chicks albums into dust. It was as if an entire format had been waiting and planning for such a quip.

Toby Keith didn't help much, but in fairness, he was responding to Maines, who'd said his hit "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" didn't represent country music like it deserved to be represented. There was the 'F-U-T-K' T-shirt … and one of the most intense feuds in country music history.

Politics aside, country music lost a superstar act that day. The Dixie Chicks were as big as any artist in Nashville, and their extraction from the radio left a hole to be filled by lesser-known talent. They'd recover with a 2006 album called Taking the Long Way that won several Grammys. Since then they have toured successfully, and they released a new album titled Gaslighter in 2020, after announcing they were dropping "Dixie" from their name and becoming simply the Chicks. But if there's a time when they'll be welcomed back to country radio with open arms, it's not yet on the horizon.

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