Three years ago, the Dixie Chicks were the most popular female group in history. They had the No. 1 country single and were about to embark on a sold out worldwide tour, when lead singer Natalie Maines made an off-the-cuff remark in London. On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, she said she was ashamed that President Bush was from her home state of Texas. Not since Jane Fonda's trip to Hanoi had an entertainer enraged so many people with a political statement.
The uproar in the conservative country music clan drove their songs off the charts, their music off the radio and the Dixie Chicks into self-imposed exile. You haven't heard much about them, but that is about to change. Later this month they will release their first album in nearly three years — and as one of the songs says, they're not ready to make nice. As correspondent Steve Kroft found out, Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks have plenty to say about country music, the London incident, and, yes, even President Bush.
"And ultimately every time I start getting wrapped up in thinking about it, it comes back to what I said. I said that I don't like the president is from my state," says Natalie Maines.
She readily admits she said she was ashamed the president is from her home state and acknowledges her remarks were an insult.
"Oh, it was definitely meant as…an insult. But I'm just saying ultimately what I said is that I'm ashamed that he's from my state. I think that that is stupid," Maines says laughing.
Asked if she is sorry about her London comments, Maines says no. "Sorry about what? Sorry about what? Sorry about not wanting to go to war? And not wanting people to die?"
"You'd do it again?" Kroft asked.
"No. Yeah, I've said so much worse than that, I'm telling you," she replied, laughing.
About the only thing that has changed is that nearly 70 percent of the American public now agrees with her, at least to some extent. The question is whether that will be enough for the Dixie Chicks to resurrect their career.
Listening to Maines rehearse in Austin, Texas, with the other Dixie Chicks, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, and working up some of their past hits, you are reminded just how big they were.
They weren't political — just opinionated and a little rebellious. Their music resonated with millions of women across the country.
When things began to fall apart, they went home to the nest and turned their focus to family. "We've all just been having babies," says Maines, who has two children. "Emily has three. Martie has two," she explains.
All of the children were born in the last three years. "Emily and I each had a son on the last tour. And then there's been five more babies in the last two years," says Maines.
Their new CD, called "Taking the Long Way" chronicles all the things that have happened to them, but if you were expecting something just soft and maternal, guess again. One song in particular, a single released six weeks ago, sums up their current state of mind. It's called "Not Ready to Make Nice."
The song is powerful and unrepentant. The anger isn't directed at the war or the president — or at their many fans who deserted them. It's about the hatred, and narrow-minded intolerance they encountered for expressing an opinion.