t was The Dixie Chicks who changed my mind about country music. Until I discovered the album, Wide Open Spaces in 1998, I had no time at all for the genre I saw only as maudlin. Since getting to know the music of these three women from Dallas, Texas, I’ve discovered how country music has evolved into something wonderful and uplifting and I was thrilled to watch them perform this song at London’s O2 arena in 2014.
The Dixie Chicks is composed of sisters: Martie Erwin Maguire, Emily Erwin Robison and lead singer Natalie Maines. These girls know how to rock up country music!
At a concert in Shepherd’s Bush, London, Natalie Maines caused controversy when she made a statement criticising the then President of The United States, George W Bush. The date was 10th March, nine days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
She told the audience: "We don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas". This statement got a positive response from the British audience contrasting with the negative reactions in the United States. In their home country, talk shows denounced the band, citizens discarded their albums in public protest and corporate broadcasting networks blacklisted them.
Prior to the controversial statement, The Dixie Chicks were enjoying massive success in America and Europe. This faux pas put a halt to their recording and touring in America for the remainder of George W. Bush’s presidency.
In an interview, The Dixie Chicks confessed that they had been naive and shocked by the reaction of the American people and the establishment. They had been taught as children that as Americans, they were free to express their beliefs and opinions. This clearly wasn’t the truth.
Pressure was on Natalie Maines to apologise to the president but she repeatedly refused. It was suggested that the band should write a song as a kind of peace offering in order that they could be allowed to be accepted by audiences again but they found it difficult to do this without feeling like they were admitting they were wrong. They still felt very angry by what had happened in Iraq and angrier still that they were punished for speaking their opinion.
Eventually, the girls sat down to write with Dan Wilson from the band Semisonic. Wilson came up with lots of ideas but all were quashed by The Dixie Chicks for seeming like they were backing down.
In a publicity statement, Natalie Maine said: "We tried to write about the incident a few times, but you get nervous that you're being too preachy or too victimised or too nonchalant. Dan came in with an idea that was some kind of concession, more 'can't we all just get along?' and I said, nope, I can't say that, can't do it. And we talked about it, and he said, what about "I'm not ready to make nice?" From the outside, normal people really weren't aware of how bizarre and absurd it got. Dan was really good at clueing into that, saying something that didn't back down, but still had a vulnerability to it. This album was therapy. To write these songs allowed me to find peace with everything and move on."
The song’s title is something Dan Wilson's mother used to say to him when she wasn't yet ready to forgive him for upsetting her or misbehaving.
Not Ready to Make Nice is the band's biggest hit to date in the United States.
On February 11, 2007, it won three Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
In 2009, Rolling Stone named Not Ready to Make Nice NO. 77 in its list of “Best Songs of the Decade.”