I hate country music, I really do. But the only band I can hold any sort of tolerance for is The Dixie Chicks. Am I a fan? No. Am I fan of their views? God yes. Particularly Natalie Maines that little hot firecracker. Outspoken, charismatic, and intelligent, you just have to love her. Hats off to you, babe. In 2006, no two documentaries were more inadvertently paralleled than “Shut up & Sing,” and “The US vs. John Lennon.”
A long time ago, John Lennon, sitting with the Beatles, explained to a reporter, in sheer shock, that he couldn’t believe the way fans were gushing. It was almost as if they were more popular than Jesus.
Fans, thanks to the media, took it out of proportion, and wholly out of context.
What John Lennon meant was that this group was basically being revered and salivated over more than god, and at that time it wasn’t completely a far off concept. When The Beatles were at the height of their fame, it was almost as if the Earth shook, to paraphrase a certain Ken Dashow.
In 2003, in a UK theater, the Dixie Chicks were playing to a sold out crowd, a day subsequent the biggest recorded anti-war protest in history, where thousands flocked and stormed the streets. Maines was also keeping track of the rising tensions with the war.
Maines, before the concert, proclaimed to the audience, “Just so you know, we’re on your side, and we’re ashamed President Bush is from Texas.” The crowd roared.
Fans outside the UK, thanks to the media, took it out of proportion, and wholly out of context.
If you want to truly see what “free speech” means in America, and how fictional a concept it is, be sure to check out “The US vs. John Lennon,” and “Shut Up & Sing.” Both of which are truly excellent documentaries exploring the height of two music juggernauts who decided to speak out against their government and paid the price. Don’t believe the hype grade schoolers, you can’t speak your mind in America.
I gained a whole new level of respect for Lennon after the documentary chronicling his inevitable lead into becoming a peaceful leader of a rebellion against the Vietnam war and the government’s terrorism on him. He staged protests, he spoke out, and he was forced to deport to his homeland against his will, stalked by government agents day in and day out, and he inevitably won out in the end.
However, with the Dixie Chicks, there’s a brand new sense of respect not just for the group, but for Maines whose statement was taken from an ample single minded point of view.
What Maines’ states is not only a heat of the moment high, but also an assurance to their audience that just because they’re Southern fried all American girls, it doesn’t mean they’re automatically for the war, and against the protests. The thousands who didn’t bother to examine the comment and instead took it at face value, staged the same protests the Beatles suffered.
Radio stations wouldn’t play their songs, the media induced the rage, the government intervened, the group lost franchising deals, their records flopped, fans protested at concerts, and crushed all of their albums (still unaware they’re pissing away their own money, but hey, little minds think alike), except there was a difference.
Lennon explained his statement and apologized.
Maines explained her statement, and refuses to apologize to her fans to this day. And she refuses to forgive the folks who turned on them at their darkest time.
After the hype and ridiculous hullabaloo died down, the Dixie Chicks were never the same country band again, and that’s a great thing. The genre sucks, period, and when you watch them recording their music and belting out vocals, you can’t help but feel that they’re a little better than trailer trash background noise.
“Shut up & Sing” is a criminally underrated documentary exploring the lives of these three women, and country fans would be wise to watch it. It shows that you can be Southern and still be open minded, and most of all, Maines and company demonstrate that the real American speaks out against their government rather than playing dupes of the statesman.
At one point, Maines reads a newspaper article, in where Bush explains that they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt from the backlash, to which Maines exclaims, “”They shouldn’t have their feelings hurt? What a dumb fuck.” She then looks into the camera and declares, “”You’re a dumb fuck.” I’d do her in a New York minute”¦ no offense, Adrian.
You just have to have a sense of respect for Maines who was willing to lose Lipton’s support, and endure the undermining of their entourage too stick to her assessment. And furthermore you have to admire the fact that the group faced the end of their careers and stuck by Maines. “The president will be at an all time high by the time this statement goes out,” their publicist insists, “His approval will be up, Iraq will be occupied, they’ll begin rebuilding, and Bush will be on top of the world.” Never has such a scene exemplified the term irony. You just can’t help but laugh at the scene as Maines, Maguire, and Robison constantly pow wow with how to approach the situation.
Maguire shudders at the prospect of possibly losing all of their money and support, Robison is frightened at the death threat towards Maines, and the night of their concert in Dallas, you can almost feel Maines shaking as her husband (Adrian Pasdar) hugs her and watches her walk off.
Lennon, as directors Leif and Scheinfeld explained in “The US vs. John Lennon” was just a rebellious man who was so outspoken he accidentally became a role model for those speaking out against the Vietnam war. He chanted, he performed, he challenged others with peaceful debates, and yet he was deemed incredibly dangerous. He was simply a man speaking his mind, was told to shut up, and continued to speak louder in defiance.
Much of what Lennon explains in his bids for peace with both the war, and his personal life, is quite insightful. He displays discontent to the free loving hippies who were angered the sixties didn’t cause complete peace, and he basically skewers the likes of Nixon who fell under the weight of his own corruption. Interestingly enough, much of Lennon’s friends allude that the murder of Lennon was not a random obsessed fan.
Lennon was considered an immense threat at his highest, so whether or not that is plausible is something worthy of heavy debating.
But you assume in a time of sheer evolution of technology, and media, that we’d be more open minded about opposite opinions, rather than insisting that music stars and actors stop running off at the mouth and just entertain us; which is the point of the documentary. The fans just wanted the Dixie Chicks to shut up and sing, and they paid for a passing comment about the (then) current rising tensions in Iraq.
Now, I won’t compare The Beatles to the Dixie Chicks, but when you watch both films side by side, you get it. And then you can’t help but frown a little.
In our country, we’re taught to speak your mind, believe in what you believe, and are told that our Democracy allows dissension, and it’s all such a fictional concept when radio stations will not play your songs based on your views, and you’re locked out of cities to perform in.
In a world where Roman Polanski wins an Oscar and gains a standing ovation from a humongous audience, why not let a cheesy little country trio keep doing what they were doing?
Both films will make you proud to be an American, and hopefully make you re-think your stance on certain issues, and open your mind a bit, as Lennon influenced his fans to. Maines is a prime example of what Lennon applauded, and likely would have supported.
Fame, fortune, and riches be damned, self-respect is still a priceless and rare commodity in this damn country. People like Lennon, and The Dixie Chicks are an endangered species. So, go out and protest, and speak your mind.
Because, a patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.