21 April 2008

In the easy silence that you make for me it’s ok if there’s nothing left to say to me…

According to Webster’s Dictionary the definition of Freedom Of Speech is the following: Noun
1. Guaranteed by the 1st amendment to the US constitution.
2. ….is the right to freely state one's opinions and ideas.

Basically, Freedom Of Speech is all well and good as long as you don’t do it in a public forum. Such is the thrust behind the documentary “Shut Up & Sing” about the controversy and fallout of the Dixie Chicks’ 2003 statement at a sold out show at London’s Shepard’s Bush Empire that they were embarrassed that President Bush was from Texas. When you watch the footage of this fateful moment – which would unknowingly become a catalyst that would upend their lives both professionally and personally – it’s apparent that it was very simple between song banter – Natalie Maines was laughing and making light of what would later become a very embarrassing moment in U.S. history. She was expressing what most were fearful of saying but many were thinking. Somehow the press got wind of this statement – blew it out of proportion – fanned the flames and crucified her for having an opinion as did the many minions of die hard country music fans.

As the film unfolds in non –linear story telling you simultaneously witness the very public and private heartbreaking repercussions of the off the cuff statement and the healing that goes along with such an extraordinary moment. At the time this was going on I would not have called myself a fan of their music – sure I liked a song here and there but only started to really pay attention when this shit hit the fan. I very vocally applauded Ms. Maines’ courage and strength to speak out against the impending doom of War and misguided decisions - but until watching this film I had no idea just how amazing these three women really are. As the band rolls with the tide and tries to adjust to the rising swell of ‘Dixie Twit’ sentiment you witness a strengthening and unity among these artists that later informs their writing and their choices to keep moving forward. While it is clearly not an easy path that has been put in front of them never is there a mention of giving up and disbanding. In fact, it’s quite the opposite which therein proves further the point that the strength was there all along. Martie Maguire and Emily Robison steadfastly stand behind their band mate and support Natalie’s rock hard will to carry on and not take back the words that put their careers, and in one instance, their lives in peril. When, towards the end of the film Martie, in tears, discusses how she wouldn’t change a thing and would give it all up if Natalie would just realize that the journey they are on is worth every moment and is more precious than their careers as an entity, you can’t help but cry along with her as you realize that sometimes the journey we don’t plan can be the one that is the most fulfilling.

One of the more interesting sides to this film is that I found myself having some compassion for the radio stations that were pressured by their fans and their corporate owners into discontinuing playing the Chicks music. You could see that a few of the Dj’s they interviewed simply had their hands tied and had to answer to the small minded listeners that were in effect paying the bills. But, I did find myself being angered by the blatant disregard for the very right we were all born into and the corporate blandness that has overtaken radio. Not that this ‘we won’t play your music’ thing is anything new – it did, after all, happen to The Beatles when John Lennon mentioned something about them being ‘bigger than Jesus’. But still, some part of me had hoped that minds had gotten bigger since the 60’s not smaller. But perhaps this is more a statement of where this country is today thanks to our current and soon to be former President – not where we’ve been and seem to be returning. Of course, interestingly enough, many of the people who protested outside their concerts and stomped on their CD’s are, I’m guessing, having a change of heart as The President’s approval rating for this War falls lower and lower. Hmmm…..

One of the cool things about this film is that you get an insider’s look into not only the backstage lives of these three women and their traveling families but you get to witness their recording process and simultaneous renewal as they get back into the studio to record last year’s release Taking The Long Way. I don’t think you need to be a musician to appreciate their style of recording live and just how incredibly talented these women and those around them are. These Chicks can not only sing they can play the hell out of their many instruments - they are the real deal – they are more than an image and a ‘product’ they are very talented women in every aspect of musicianship.

As we go back and forth between 2003 and 2006 you see emerging these artists who’s greatest gift is not only that they kept moving forward and maintained their position that Natalie had every right to say what she said but they channeled their ups and downs into and exceptional and strength inspiring CD. Every lyric (co- written by Dan Wilson and the Chicks) is a testament to faith, strong will, survival, inner peace, and the need to stand up for what we believe in with no regrets and no apologies.

From “Not Ready To Make Nice”:

“I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I know you said
Can’t you just get over it
It turned my whole world around
And I kind of like it

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’
It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over….”

At the end of the film when the girls go back to Shepards Bush in 2006 to perform again amongst rousing cheers and yet another sold out show one gets the feeling of life coming full circle, life moving on and, again, the strength it takes to do so. When at some point Natalie Maines repeats that famous statement you realize you are witnessing the underdog winning and Freedom Of Speech fearlessly prevailing. I was brought to tears and deeply moved when they performed my favourite song, “Easy Silence” which in many ways sums it all up.

“When the calls and conversations
Accidents and accusations
Messages and misperceptions
Paralyze my mind

Busses, cars, and airplanes leaving
Burning fumes of gasoline
And everyone is running
And I come to find a refuge in the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Monkeys on the barricades
Are warning us to back away
They form commissions trying to find
The next one they can crucify

And anger plays on every station
Answers only make more questions
I need something to believe in
Breathe in sanctuary in the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Children lose their youth too soon
Watching war made us immune
And I've got all the world to lose
But I just want to hold on to the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me

The easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay”

(Both lyrics courtesy of www.azlyrics.com)

Needless to say after watching “Shut Up & Sing” I now consider myself a fan of these women (it’s hard not to) and I can’t say enough how great a CD Taking The Long Way is - now even more so after learning about the back story. These women have taken a lot of grief for voicing an opinion and they had every right to do so as afforded by the Constitution Of The United States. We should applaud them not crucify them. So if you get a chance watch this DVD, do it – it just might change your mind about where we are and where we’re headed as a nation – even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of The Dixie Chicks – it’s still a very interesting story.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next week….CHEERS!!

Here they are from last year’s Grammy Awards singing “Not Ready To Make Nice”:

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