Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing

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Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing
Shut up and sing poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarbara Kopple
Cecilia Peck
Produced by
  • Barbara Kopple
  • Cecilia Peck
  • David Cassidy
StarringMartie Maguire
Natalie Maines
Emily Robison
Adrian Pasdar
Rick Rubin
George W. Bush (footage)
Simon Renshaw
Gareth Maguire
CinematographyTamara Goldsworthy
Chris Burrill
Joan Churchill
Seth Gordon
Edited byBob Eisenhardt
Aaron Kuhn
Emma Morris
Jean Tsien
Michael Culyba (Co-Editor)
Music byDixie Chicks
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • September 12, 2006 (2006-09-12) (TIFF)
  • October 27, 2006 (2006-10-27) (United States)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States

Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing (also known simply as Shut Up and Sing) is a 2006 American documentary film produced and directed by Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck.[1]

The film follows the Dixie Chicks, an all-female Texas-based country music trio, over a three-year period of intense public scrutiny, fan backlash, physical threats, and pressure from both corporate and conservative political elements in the United States after lead singer Natalie Maines publicly criticized then President of the United States George W. Bush during a live 2003 concert in London as part of their Top of the World Tour.


The title of the film was inspired by conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, who coined the phrase "shut up and sing" in such context earlier; it was the title of her 2003 book Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN Are Subverting America. The tagline of the film, "freedom of speech is fine as long as you don't do it in public", is a reference to a scene in which an interviewed protester says "freedom of speech is fine but by God you don't do it outside of the country and you don't do it in mass publicly".

The film opens during the Dixie Chicks' 2003 Top of the World Tour, discussing the Dixie Chicks' superstar status prior to the incident at their London show. They had sold more albums in the United States than any other female band in history. With the release of their 2002 album Home, they were again at the top of the Billboard charts. The new single from that album "Travelin' Soldier", a sensitive depiction of a soldier's life during the Vietnam War era, and the young woman who waited for him, finding he was killed in battle, had peaked at number 1 on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart.

The film then cuts to a scene from the Dixie Chicks' March 10, 2003 concert at the Shepherd's Bush Empire Theatre in London, England. The atmosphere in the European audience is of dramatic opposition to the announcement from United States President George W. Bush's authorization of the invasion of Iraq. Approximately 1 million people had recently demonstrated in London against the impending war.[2] During the introduction to their song "Travelin' Soldier", Natalie Maines, a Texas native, says:

Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.

— Natalie Maines[3]

The Guardian, a major English newspaper, published Maines' statement as simply "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."[4] Shortly thereafter, the U.S. media picked up the story and controversy erupted.[5] Conservative groups in the U.S. rallied against the Dixie Chicks and a firestorm of anger and criticism followed.

The film shows the band's reaction to the open hostility, political and corporate backlash, and physical threats directed at the group. The band did not expect such a strong reaction, and they are unsure if they should "shut up and sing", apologize, or stand by their convictions and let more sparks fly.

The film follows the day-to-day life of the Chicks. It shows them with their husbands and their children, at home in Texas and in the recording studio in Los Angeles, getting their hair and makeup done before appearances, exchanging ribald remarks with each other, writing song lyrics and working on musical arrangements. Simon Renshaw, the group's longtime manager, is the focus of many scenes as he attempts to guide the Chicks through the vicissitudes of the music industry.

The title of the film is a lyric from the Dixie Chicks' 2006 post-controversy single "Not Ready to Make Nice" from the album Taking the Long Way. It was the criticism and hate mail that they received because of their political statements, one of which drew such concern from both the FBI and the Texas Rangers that they advised the Chicks to cancel a concert in Dallas, Texas, and they were shown the original letter that specified a date, time, and location at which lead singer Natalie Maines would be shot dead, unless she "shut up and sang". However, the show took place without incident. Living in a constant state of fear took an emotional toll on the Chicks, in particular because they toured with their children.[6]

The song, "Not Ready to Make Nice" includes a reference to that very real death threat:

And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Saying that I better
shut up and sing or my life will be over?!


Release dates[edit]

Television advertisements[edit]

In October 2006, the film's distributor, The Weinstein Company, announced that NBC had refused to air the TV advertisements for the film, stating that it was following a "policy of not broadcasting ads that deal with issues of public controversy". NBC publicly acknowledged the decision but claimed that it was willing to work with Weinstein to find an acceptable alternative.[7] At the same time, the distributor also claimed that The CW had refused to air these advertisements, citing "concerns we do not have appropriate programming in which to schedule this spot". That network later said its statement was merely an opinion on whether its target audience would respond to the ad, and that it would have accepted the ads if Weinstein had actually bought commercial time.[8]

At the time, CBS was the only major television network to have agreed to air the ads for the film, according to a Weinstein spokesperson, who said the company was also waiting on responses from ABC and Fox.[9] It is not clear which decision either network ultimately made. However, individual stations affiliated with all five networks, including some owned by NBC, aired the ad during local ad time.


Box office[edit]

The film opened in New York City and Los Angeles on October 27, 2006 in only 4 theatres. In its first week it grossed an average of US$50,103. In its sixth week (38 days after its original release) the film expanded to its widest release, being shown at 84 theaters.

  • Total domestic gross: US$1,215,045 (Estimate).[10]


Critical reaction to the film has been positive overall. It currently holds an 89% rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus reads: "Though ostensibly an intimate look at the Dixie Chicks after their 2003 anti-Bush remark, the film achieves broader relevance by exploring how media, politics, and celebrities intertwine."[11]

Shut Up and Sing has received positive reviews from major American publications such as Rolling Stone,[12] The New Yorker,[13] Entertainment Weekly,[14] Chicago Tribune,[15] Variety,[16] Time,[17] USA Today,[18] New York Post,[19] The Wall Street Journal,[20] TV Guide,[21] San Francisco Chronicle,[22] Newsweek,[23] LA Weekly[24] and The Washington Post.[25] It was also very well received by Richard Roeper on the television program Ebert & Roeper.[26]

Awards and nominations[edit]


Entertainment Weekly magazine cover used in promotional video
Promotional poster used in the US

The theatrical poster of the film borrowed a picture of the band from a memorable Entertainment Weekly cover, in which they are featured in the nude, with their privates cleverly hidden. On the U.S. version of the poster, however, the "nudity" was edited out and towels are seen over their nude bodies. The writings, which were originally on their bodies, were transferred to the towels. The Canadian poster used the original photo, with no towels added.[27]

The original photograph included the words "Dixie Sluts" but for the promotional poster, a more demure "Dixie Bimbos" replaced the message on Emily Robison's arm.


The documentary received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America for strong language.[28]

DVD release[edit]

The DVD of the film was released on February 20, 2007,[29] and the UK in September 2007. On September 9, 2007, it ranked at #2 in the UK Top 20 DVD Chart.


  1. ^ Singer, Leigh BBC Collective Dixie Chicks Shut up and Sing Film Interview
  2. ^ "Thousands more take stand against conflict in demonstrations throughout Britain" The Guardian, 10 March 2003. Access date 15 May 2010.
  3. ^ Democracy Now! (2007). "Shut Up And Sing: Dixie Chicks' Big Grammy Win Caps Comeback From Backlash Over Anti-War Stance" Archived 2007-11-14 at the Wayback Machine Democracy Now! (accessed 24 Feb 2007)
  4. ^ Clarke, Betty (2003). "The Dixie Chicks" Guardian Unlimited (accessed 2007-01-22)
  5. ^ Campbell, Duncan (2003). "'Dixie sluts' fight on with naked defiance" Guardian Unlimited (accessed 2006-04-13)
  6. ^ Cohn, Angel TV Guide Shut Up and Sing Review Retrieved 12 June, 2008
  7. ^ Dixie Chicks film ad sparks row BBC, October 28, 2006
  8. ^ Prickly Peacock nixes Chicks, Variety, October 26, 2006
  9. ^ NBC rejects TV ads for Dixie Chicks film, David Bauder, USA Today, September 28
  10. ^ Shut Up and Sing at the Box Office Mojo
  11. ^ Shut Up and Sing at the Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ Shut Up and Sing review, Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, October 27, 2006
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ Shut Up & Sing movie review, Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, October 25
  15. ^ Movie review: Shut Up & Sing[permanent dead link], Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
  16. ^ Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing, Phil Gallo, Variety, September 5, 2006
  17. ^ The Dixie Chicks and the Good Soldiers, Richard Corliss, Time, September 17, 2006
  18. ^ Dixie Chicks open up in 'Shut Up' , Claudia Puig, USA Today, October 26, 2006
  19. ^ AMID CLUCKING, DIXIE CHICKS RISE UP Archived July 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Lou Lumenick, New York Post
  20. ^ Film review, Joanne Kaufman, Wall Street Journal (Members only)
  21. ^ Full Review - Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing, Angel Cohn, TV Guide
  22. ^ Defiant Dixie Chicks speak their minds in 'Shut Up and Sing' , Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 2006
  23. ^ Movies: With the Chicks Archived February 22, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, David Ansen, Newsweek, November 6, 2006
  24. ^ Film reviews Archived January 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Ella Taylor and others, LA Weekly, November 1, 2006
  25. ^ Shut Up & Sing, Stephen Hunter, Washington Post, November 16
  26. ^ (Sound file)[permanent dead link], Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper
  27. ^ Peter T. Chattaway (2006-10-31). "Shut Up & Sing -- censored posters!". Filmchat. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
  28. ^ Shut Up & Sing (2006) - Movie Info - Yahoo! Movies Archived November 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ DVD Review: Dixie Chicks - Shut Up & Sing Archived February 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]