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Dixie Chicks - Not Ready to Make Nice (Late Show With David Letterman 2006)

Checking for Matches…

The Chicks debut masterpiece on Letterman — #1 on drop day, 5 Grammies ahead

You may remember the story behind this song. The Dixie Chicks were starting a world tour around the same time George Bush was starting his world domination in Iraq. At their opening show in London (Mar 10, ‘03), lead singer Natalie Maines made the off-hand remark, “Just so ya know, we’re on the good side with y’all…and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” It led to one of the few organized “record-burnings” in America since Lennon made his Jesus crack. 

The Chicks were popular in both the South and all over Country Radio — in fact at the time had the #1 song on Billboard’s Country Chart, Traveling Soldier, a gorgeously performed tribute to the men in uniform and those they leave behind. But thems two hog-sized audiences that don’t take too kindly to womenfolk yappin crazy about their President Cowboy. And it drove the right-wing loony radio & websites into a McCarthy tizzy attacking the Chicks – pre-dating the “terrorist fist-bump” by several years.
As if that isn’t a great enough rock n roll story, on the very tour it happened, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple was making a new doc about the Chicks and had the cameras rolling as this broke, so all this Shakespearean drama is captured in her masterpiece “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing.”
THEN they write this song – not any song — and like a real-life fairy-tale it wins them Song, Record and Album of the Year at the Grammies – where no less than Joan Baez introduces them . . . by quoting Woody Guthrie.
This Letterman performance is on the day their "Taking The Long Way" disk dropped (debuting at #1 on both the Billboard Pop and County Album charts) – and this is the first time this song was played live to a nationwide audience. 
Play this clip loud.
The words are clear, and so’s the story, everything based on real events, some of which are captured in Kopple's documentary. The song has a wonderful and deceptively gentle opening – but this is definitely not yer Toby Keith country. This is country like Country Joe is country; like Gram Parsons, Steve Earle and Waylon Jennings are country. And it took this buncha Chicks to be the one’s who stepped up and stopped playing the phony rah-rah Bush game.
This is All About the second verse which starts around 1:20. G’head — turn it up some more.
I’ll just leave it for you to discover.
And don’t miss that these two sisters and one central singer make some of the most beautiful and naturally-blending harmonies since Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s voices dissolved together in a sea of madness during a prior war-torn America.

The Dixie Chicks (left to right):
Emily Robison (elec guitar & vocal); Natalie Maines (lead vocal); Martie Maguire (violin & vocal);
John Kravoz (cello); J’Anna Jacoby (violin); bandleader David Grissom (elec guitar); Keith Sewell (acoustic guitar); Audley Freed (elec guitar);
Pete Finney (pedal steel); Fred Eltringham (drums); Sebastian Steinberg (bass).  

Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Not Ready To Make Nice on Wikipedia

"Not Ready to Make Nice" is a country pop song co-written and performed by the American all-female band Dixie Chicks for their seventh studio album Taking the Long Way (2006). The song was released as the first physical single from the album in March 2006.

On February 11, 2007, it won three Grammy Awards in the categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.[1]

In 2009, Rolling Stone named "Not Ready to Make Nice" the 77th best song of the decade.[2]


Song information

Taking the Long Way was the first studio album released by the Dixie Chicks after controversy erupted over them in 2003 following a critical comment vocalist Natalie Maines made of the American President George W. Bush while performing in a concert in London, United Kingdom. The controversy and the band reaction to it is the major theme of some of the songs in the album, including "Not Ready to Make Nice".

The song, which was written by all three band members (Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire) along with Dan Wilson, is a statement of how they feel over the controversy, the banning of their songs from country music radio stations, and freedom of speech.

The band went on to the October 25 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show to promote their documentary film Shut Up and Sing and the music video of the song was quickly shown[3]. While interviewing the band, Winfrey said the song is so well written that someone cannot even tell if it concerns the controversy. Indeed, Maines said that she and the other songwriters wanted the song to have a universal interpretation. However, the final lines of the fourth verse are unequivocally about the death threats the band received during the 2003 Top of the World Tour:

"And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Saying that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over."

Some other lines in the beginning of this same verse are about a scene featured in the documentary Shut Up and Sing, in which a mother, who was protesting the Dixie Chicks at one of their concerts, is goading her young child to say "screw 'em!":

"It's a sad sad story
When a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought'a hate a perfect stranger"

In the song, "daughter" was used instead of "son" as a matter of poetic license.

Comments by band members

The band members released their comments about writing the songs of Taking the Long Way through the website Frontpage Publicity[4]. They commented the following about "Not Ready to Make Nice":

  • Emily: "The stakes were definitely higher on that song. We knew it was special because it was so autobiographical, and we had to get it right. We've all gone through so many emotions about the incident. We talked for days with Dan before putting pen to paper, and he really helped get inside our heads and put these feelings out. And once we had this song done, it freed us up to do the rest of the album without that burden."
  • Martie: "We had reached a point where we were laughing a lot about it, and people didn't really know how far it had gone. I realized I had suppressed a lot about the death threat. It all came flooding back in the process of writing this song, I think we all realized just how painful it had been for us.."
  • Natalie: "We tried to write about the incident a few times, but you get nervous that you're being too preachy or too victimized or too nonchalant. Dan came in with an idea that was some kind of concession, more 'can't we all just get along?' and I said, nope, I can't say that, can't do it. And we talked about it, and he said, what about "I'm not ready to make nice?" From the outside, normal people really weren't aware of how bizarre and absurd it got. Dan was really good at cluing in to that, saying something that didn't back down, but still had a vulnerability to it. This album was therapy. To write these songs allowed me to find peace with everything and move on."

Music video

The music video for "Not Ready to Make Nice", which was directed by the acclaimed British director Sophie Muller, uses the contrast of dark and white colors. The video starts with a scene of Natalie painting the white clothes of the other two band members, Martie and Emily, with black paint, which symbolizes the boycott of the band. Then, Natalie is seen wearing a black dress with her hands on a puddle of black paint. In another scene, the band members are sitting in a chair and when Natalie gets up to say something, Martie and Emily pull her back in to the chair. Then, Natalie and the other Dixie Chicks are seen in an environment that looks like a classroom and the teacher sends Natalie to write the English proverb "To talk without thinking is to shoot without aiming" on the blackboard. On the final scenes of the video, Natalie is seen in front of three doctors in what appears to be a mental institution, trying to escape from them.

The music video of the song broke the record as the longest run at #1 on VH1's VSpot Top 20 Countdown spending 14 weeks at the top, 13 of them consecutive. The video also became the second ever to retire on the show on 7 October 2006, when it was at #9 on the countdown. In December 2006, it was named one of the best videos of the year by VH1. "Not Ready to Make Nice" was ranked #36 on CMT's 2008 ranking of the 100 Greatest Videos.[5]

MADtv parody

The Fox late-night sketch show MADtv performed a parody of the "Not Ready to Make Nice" music video. In the parody, Crista Flanagan portrays Natalie Maines as standing by her comments about George W. Bush; however, her bandmates, portrayed by Nicole Parker and Arden Myrin, want to apologize so they can remain popular in the United States. Flanagan, as Maines, states that there is no God, she supports radical Islamic Jihad, and that every woman should wear a burqa. In the parody, Flanagan writes on a blackboard, "I am angry and important". In the parody, Flanagan is lobotimized and her bandmates toast the operation; whereas in the original, Maines resists being treated by doctors and is toasted by her bandmates.

Critical response

"Not Ready to Make Nice" was very well-received by music reviewers from publications like Allmusic, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and USA Today. The song has been praised by these critics for being a statement in which the band does not regret Maines' anti-Bush statement.

  • Allmusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine said the following about "Not Ready to Make Nice" [6]:
"Given the controversy of 2003, the conscious distancing from country makes sense — and given songs like the defiant "Not Ready to Make Nice", the Dixie Chicks don't sound like they're in retreat on Taking the Long Way; they merely sound like they're being themselves."
  • Entertainment Weekly music reviewer David Browne commented the following about the song [7]:
"If you wonder whether they have regrets about the incident, "Not Ready to Make Nice" makes it clear they don't. When Maines gets to the part about all the death threats, her voice rises and the strings well up; it's a true pop-money-shot moment."
  • Rolling Stone music reviewer Barry Walters commented the following about the song [8]:
"Rather than try to forget about singer Natalie Maines' anti-Bush remarks of 2003 -- which landed them in hot water with a lot of station program directors -- the threesome declares it's still "Not Ready to Make Nice"."
  • USA Today music reviewer Brian Mansfield commented the following about the song [9]:
"They're "Not Ready to Make Nice" with the yahoos who threatened their lives over an offhanded comment. So give the Chicks credit for sticking to their guns, and give them more for getting on with life."

Live performances history

To promote both the single and the album, the Dixie Chicks performed the song live on some television programs such as on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman, among others. It was also performed to internet radios such as Sessions@AOL and LAUNCHcast. It was performed in every single concert of the band's Accidents & Accusations Tour (June 15–December 5, 2006). It was also performed at the 49th Grammy Awards, just minutes before the band won the awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. (In a nod to the controversial origins of the song, Grammy producers had longtime singer-activist Joan Baez introduce the performance.)

Chart performance

"Not Ready to Make Nice" initially peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart[10], becoming the first song by the band to chart in the U.S. after the 2003 controversy. It was able to chart in the Billboard Hot 100 because of a high number of download sales (it debuted at #11[11] and peaked at #8[12] on the Hot Digital Songs chart), despite low country radio airplay.

For the issue dated February 24, 2007, in the wake of its Grammy success, the song re-entered the Hot 100 at #4, after a 20-week absence[13], becoming the band's highest charting single to date on the general music charts. It also tied with LL Cool J and Jennifer Lopez' "Control Myself" as the highest re-entry at the chart. That same week, the song would also receive a Gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America for digital downloads of over 500,000. However, its drop to #28 in the next week broke the record for the biggest drop out of the top five in a single week, beating Clay Aiken's "Solitaire", which fell from #4 to #27 four years earlier.[14]

The song was also very popular in Canada, where it peaked at #3 on the ...   

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