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As Left-wing groups like Black Lives Matter and others continue to shame corporations into changing the name of legacy products whose origins date back to the last century, entertainers are similarly being challenged to drop the name of their acts as well.
Last year, country music band Confederate Railroad came under fire for a name critics claimed was inherently divisive and racist. The controversy seemingly grew out of nowhere, leading to cancellations of concerts and a vow from the band’s lead singer, Danny Shirley, that the group would never change its name.
But another country group succumbed. Last week, the three-member group Lady Antebellum announced they would be changing their name to Lady A., because ‘antebellum’ conjures up an image of the Old South, the pre-Confederacy, and slavery. And even that move did not work out well; the group was slammed by a Seattle-based blues singer and black woman who has long used “Lady A” as the name of her act.
Now, a writer for Variety, the entertainment-themed magazine and website, is suggesting it might be time for yet another country band, the “Dixie Chicks,” to change their name as well because it contains ‘Dixie,’ definitely a reference to the Confederate South (which, at one time, was primarily Democratic).
Country music fans may recall that the band’s frontwoman, Natalie Maines, cost the group lots of fans and a good portion of their careers when she told a concert audience in London in 2003 after the invasion of Iraq, “We’re ashamed that the president of the United States (then George W. Bush) is from Texas.”
With that one sentence, she shattered the group’s good name and hobbled their career, which has never fully recovered, as well. But about that name… The grand irony of the hoopla that ensued was that as she stood on stage declaring herself a non-fan of George W. Bush, the Republican president, she and her bandmates, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer, were performing under a moniker that, in some ways, represents up-with-whiteness more flagrantly than Bush, whom Kanye West once accused of not caring about Black people, ever did.
He goes on to note that the band’s name, in light of the current ‘wokeness’ engulfing the popular culture, corporate America, and the sports world following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, will become an issue in a few short weeks, if it hasn’t already.
Following Maines’ comment, fans abandoned the band in droves. Country music radio stations en masse dropped the Dixie Chicks from their playlists. And while the group attempted to make a comeback with a Grammy-winning single “Not Ready to Make Nice” in 2006, along with an album, “Taking the Long Way,” no new singles or albums were released over the next 14 years, though they continued to tour.
The band dipped their toes in the water last year when they joined with Taylor Swift for the latter’s single, “Soon You’ll Get Better.” And in July, they are expected to release their first single in years, “Gaslighter,” a reference to someone who manipulates others by forcing them to question their own reality. The album was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The delay was a good move — a global pandemic is clearly not the best time to launch a major comeback — and clearly they have advisors who earn their pay. So why haven’t they convinced the ladies to address the problematic nature of their name?” Helligar writes.
Referencing Lady A’s name change, Helligar notes that “the Dixie Chicks don’t need to change their name to get that kind of publicity, but their silence has been deafening.
“This is a discussion we need to have, and they should be a part of it,” Helligar continues.
Other acts that appear to have racial overtones — like “Uncle Kracker,” the latter a reference to a racist slang term for whites — may also soon find they will be forced to either defend themselves, as Confederate Railroad, did or succumb to the outrage mob, like Lady Antebellum.
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