16 Years Ago: The Chicks Release ‘Shut Up and Sing’ Documentary
On Sept. 30, 2006, the Dixie Chicks — now the Chicks — were three and a half years removed from the incident that left them blackballed in mainstream country music, made them targets of intense vitriol from listeners and media members and even prompted threats on their lives. But on that date, 15 years ago today, a documentary chronicling the story that began with Natalie Maines' dig at then-president George W. Bush during a March 2003 show in London, England premiered at the Aspen Film Festival.
Shut Up and Sing, directed by Academy Award-winning director Barbara Kopple and Golden Globes-nominated actor Cecilia Peck begins with the award-winning trio of Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison (now Emily Strayer) at the top of their game, out on tour to support a new album (2002's Home) and its lead single, the No. 1 song "Travelin' Soldier." However, the film quickly progresses to Maines' comments in opposition of the impending war between the United States and Iraq, and the intense, and often frightening, fallout that ensued.
"'Cause we were out of the country, we were just hearing secondhand, from our husbands or our parents or whatever, what was going on," Maguire recalled to the Associated Press in 2006, noting that she and Strayer, her sister, were never angry with Maines for what happened, because she was speaking for them, too.
In 2020, when the Chicks were promoting their newest album, Gaslighter, released that summer, Maguire shared with NPR that she'd only recently let her three daughters, now teenagers, watch Shut Up and Sing. "I didn't want them to be upset by it, I wanted them to learn what had happened." She says they were "so confused" about the backlash.
"And that's beautiful," she says. "... Things have changed so much, and that's not their world."
Shut Up and Sing had screened at both the Toronto International Film Festival and the San Sebastián International Film Festival earlier in September, but the Aspen screening marked the film's U.S. debut. Additional film festival screenings followed, and the documentary debuted in New York City and Los Angeles theaters in late October, then to a wider audience in early November.
Shut Up and Sing grossed about $1.2 million and received positive reviews from, among others, The New Yorker, USA Today and Ebert & Roeper. It also won several film festival awards — Audience Awards from the Aspen Film Festival, the Woodstock Film Festival and the Sydney Film Festival; the Boston Film Critics' Best Documentary Feature award; the San Diego Film Critics' Best Non-Fiction Film honor, and more — and was nominated for several others.
When Shut Up and Sing debuted, the Chicks' seventh studio album, Taking the Long Way, was about six months old. While country radio airplay for the song's singles was relatively nonexistent, the album itself debuted at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 and has been certified two-times platinum (as of July 2007). At the 2007 Grammy Awards, the trio won five of the seven awards for which they were nominated: two in country-specific categories and the all-genre Album, Song and Record of the Year awards.
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