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The Chicks

The Chicks were the preeminent country group of their generation, transforming the sound and sensibility of the genre at the dawn of the 2000s with their multi-platinum albums Wide Open Spaces, Fly, and Home. Steeped in country tradition -- in their earliest incarnation anchored by Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire, they were a western outfit, singing songs by Texan troubadours -- the Chicks were transformed when Natalie Maines joined the band in 1995. Maines brought a steely defiance and an unorthodox pop/rock sensibility to the band, characteristics that were evident on 1998's Wide Open Spaces, but its 1999 sequel Fly is where this blend reached full bloom. Fly inched into the pop mainstream, with its revenge anthem "Goodbye Earl" cracking Billboard's Top 20 and the record itself being nominated for a Grammy Album Of The Year. Home proved it was no fluke: the 2002 album gave the trio two Top Ten pop singles in "Long Time Gone" and "Landslide," while maintaining a robust presence on country radio. The cross-platform success didn't last for long. Just prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, Maines told a London audience the band were "ashamed" of President George W. Bush, who also hailed from Texas. The country music establishment abandoned the Chicks in short order, pulling their music from the airwaves. The trio rallied for Taking the Long Way, a 2006 album that took home five Grammys including Album Of The Year, but after its release, the Chicks took an extended hiatus. By the time they returned in 2020 with Gaslighter, an album that fully embraced pop, they were hailed as the most influential country band of their generation, cited as an influence by scores of younger musicians. Sisters Martie and Emily Erwin were raised in Addison, Texas, a suburban town on the northern edge of Dallas. Both girls showed a talent for stringed instruments at an early age, with Martie mastering the fiddle and Emily learning the five-string banjo. Following their high school graduation, the Erwins joined bassist Laura Lynch and guitarist Robin Lynn Macy to form the Chicks. Originally called Dixie Chicks in homage to Little Feat's 1973 classic song "Dixie Chicken," the group initially promoted a classic cowgirl image, wearing rhinestone-studded regalia and honing a mix of traditional country, folk, and bluegrass; the bandmembers even paid homage to Roy Rogers' cowgirl co-star/wife on their independent debut, 1990's Thank Heavens for Dale Evans. As the decade progressed, however, the band's image and sound became more contemporary, often bridging the gap between country and pop music.