It was three years ago in the summer of 2020 when The Dixie Chicks changed their band name to, simply, The Chicks. The move, like others that came from the band, originated from the country trio’s conscience.
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In other words, the change came as a response to the social protests of 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. At that time, many artists, politicians and everyday people were looking inward, reevaluating their relationship to race and America’s history of marginalizing its citizens of color.
The trio, already known for its socially-conscious positions like criticizing President George Bush in 2003 regarding the Iraq War and the invasion of the Middle East, received criticism for its band name. Some 17-plus years later when another monumental change in American culture began, The Chicks were there again. Complete with a headline-grabbing name change.
The Original Name
Formed in 1989 in Dallas, Texas, by sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer (and bassist Laura Lynch, who is no longer with the group), The Dixie Chicks, ever since 1995, included its two founding sisters, as well a third member, Natalie Maines.
Known for their country music, the band signed a record deal in 1997 and began to take off with their 1998 LP, Wide Open Spaces, and follow-up a year later, Fly. They earned multi-platinum status and their songs charted high on Billboard.
But everything changed for The Dixie Chicks in 2003 with their critique of then-President Bush. “We do not want this war, this violence,” Maines said at the time of the invasion, “and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”
The trio’s 2006 album, Taking the Long Way, was the group’s comeback effort after enduring quite the political fracas. In 2009, after their three-year hiatus, sisters Maguire and Strayer released a new album under a new moniker, Court Yard Hounds. Several years later, the trio reunited again to tour in the 2010s.
But not long after even more controversy swirled around the trio.
In 2020, the trio knew they needed to change their band name.
Historically, the word is meant to demarcate the southern United States, below the Mason-Dixon line (“Dixie” after Dixon). In other words, it’s the region of the country that attempted to secede in the 1800s from the rest of the United States. This led to the American Civil War between the North and Confederates.
The Change to the Chicks
After a reevaluation of the name in the wake of Floyd’s murder and a general reevaluation of their relationship to race, The Dixie Chicks decided to drop “Dixie” and become The Chicks. It was a bold move by the trio of white women, who have garnered some 13 Grammy Awards and sold more than 30 million albums.
The change, they knew, would surely anger their fans. Yet, they did it anyway. Why? Because they didn’t want their band name to have associations with American slavery.
In relinquishing their renowned title, The Chicks said, “We want to meet this moment.” After the change, the trio realized that a New Zealand duo also had that name, but the country Chicks earned the blessing from that band.
In their press statement, they added, “A sincere and heartfelt thank you goes out to ‘The Chicks’ of [New Zealand] for their gracious gesture in allowing us to share their name. We are honored to co-exist together in the world with these exceptionally talented sisters. Chicks Rock!”
Later, in July 2020, the group released its first album—Gaslighter, produced by Jack Antonoff—under the moniker The Chicks. The title track from that album boasts nearly 10 million streams on YouTube alone.
While the decision may not have been easy from a financial standpoint, the trio made the decision with their hearts. What will come next from the band is the question. Either way, though, the Chicks certainly sacrificed when the ladies didn’t have to—all for their sense of the greater good.
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