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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2007/02/20
by Mike Gruenberg

Dixie Chicks: Dont Get Mad.Just Get Ahead

In My Life
One of the great aspects of our society is the freedom to criticize. From the President to your boss at work to the teacher of your kids or your least favorite college professor right down to the traffic cop who writes you a ticket for an expired parking meter, criticisms au plenty are doled out by all of us with great gusto. Men, women, children and adults of all ethnic backgrounds are united in their common ability to find fault with others. Public figures take the most heat since they are such easy targets.
Years ago, John Lennon made an inappropriate remark comparing the Beatles popularity to his perceived popularity of organized religion saying that amongst young people, the Beatles enjoyed more recognition than Jesus. At the time, it seemed like an innocuous comment to Lennon, but as a result of this, there was a public outcry of damnation for such an insensitive remark. John was forced to publicly apologize. Some radio stations in the South banned Beatles music from their stations. Some disc jockey sponsored public displays of destruction of Beatles records and tapes. In all, one off-hand observation, not meant in a derisive manner was blown way out of proportion. Seeing teenagers on the evening news were seen throwing Beatle records and tapes into a burning fire. This gesture seemed a bit over the top to me. In hindsight, these teens could have found a more productive use of their time. Furthermore, had these teens not danced around the fire and destroyed all those records, we would have a lot more memorabilia on the market to buy and sell today.
Weve all been in situations where we feel that we have been wronged by someone. The natural inclination is to defend oneself. Another response could be to figure out a way to extract revenge in the most destructive way possible. A third response might be to totally disregard the person or people who in your mind have done that dastardly deed to you. All of these solutions may be fine, but responding in a negative manner as the motive to get even is time consuming and quite frankly self-defeating.
When the Dixie Chicks recently won five Grammys for their Taking The Long Way Home album, I couldnt help but think of their journey to that moment of exhilaration and payback in response to those who turned their backs on them after they publicly criticized the President on the eve of the war in Iraq. No matter what a persons beliefs are, we as free people have the right to voice those opinions as long as we try not to forcibly impose those opinions on others. Your right to disagree is my right to disagree and thats what makes us a strong society.

Much like Lennons remark the Dixie Chicks criticism of President Bush was met with outrage mostly from their Nashville community music pals. I was appalled by the insensitive remarks leveled at the Dixie Chicks for simply exercising their right of free speech. Records were burned, disc jockeys in the South refused to play their records and the group even received death threats. Sure sounds like history repeating itself. But in the end, much like the Beatles, the Dixie Chicks records continued to sell their albums and they remained at the top of the record charts. In spite of it all, the strength of the music was the determining factor.
The Chicks, much like the Beatles did the most intelligent thing they could have done under the circumstances that were presented. They didnt hide. They didnt cower in the corner. They just went out and made the music that originally got them to the top. Yes, they got mad and deservedly so, but once that wore off they realized that the best revenge was to get ahead. Hiring producer Rick Rubin to oversee the recording of the album was brilliant and as usual, the finished product was worthy of his name and theirs.
But since this is a column devoted to music and not necessarily to politics, Id like to express my views on this album. What Ive always liked about the Chicks is that their songs are not in the mold of the moon-June-love-swoon simplistic genre that many tunes seem to fall into. In the title tune, The Long Way Around they speak of individuality, experiencing all that life has to offer and not necessarily marrying the person from the same zip code as others they have known may have done. They sing about their six strong hands on the steering wheel guiding them through their lives. Recounting experiences such as Drank with the Irish and smoked with the hippies is not the usual country music lyric fare. Although the prospect of settling down is vaguely present in the song, the overriding theme is experiencing life the way they want to do it.
Not Ready To Make Nice is the response to all the criticism they endured. Rarely does a song make me pump my fist in the air and say Yeah! but this one did. If you ever felt wronged or unjustly treated, play this tune and I guarantee youll feel a whole lot better. The anger is there, but in the end they hold out hope of reconciliation, but not just yet. Cause Im mad as hell. Cant bring myself to do what it is you think I should. Forgive sounds good. Forget Im not sure I could. They say time heals everything. But Im still waiting.
Some of the guest artists that appear on this record are John Mayer, Keb Mo, Jonny Polonsky, Bonnie Raitt and Benmont Trench. The beauty of this album is in its simplicity. Looks like Rick Rubin just let them play, brought in the right guest musicians and never let the background musical arrangements override the Chicks.
George Herbert, the English clergyman and metaphysical poet who lived from 1593 1633 said Living well is the best revenge. Live well ladies, you deserve it.

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