Shut Up & Sing

Life in Bush America gets a blunt, honest telling in this documentary that makes you want to stand up and cheer without ever begging for tears or glib sympathy. Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the chart-topping Dixie Chicks, set off a shit storm at the t of the Iraq War in 2003 when she told a London audience, "We're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas." Maines joined Martie Maguire and Emily Robison — the two sisters who founded the Texas band — in a media attempt to straighten up without flying right. But a concerted right-wing effort to kill their radio play and concert appearances, especially in the South, had success. Barbara Kopple, who directed this movie firecracker with Cecilia Peck, has been chronicling threats to democracy since Harlan County, U.S.A. in 1977. And she gives due respect to Topic A: free speech. For three years, the camera focuses on the Chicks as wives, mothers, entertainers and political flash points. Their fight to stay uncompromised is inspiring. When Bush himself claims the Chicks have no right to complain about "hurt feelings," Maines lets out a terse "dumb fuck." Amen to that, sister.

From The Archives Issue 345: June 11, 1981