Dixie Chicks steal the show with 5 Grammys

LOS ANGELES ? The Dixie Chicks completed a defiant comeback on Sunday night, capturing five Grammy awards after being shunned by the country music establishment over the group's anti-Bush comments leading up to the Iraq invasion. The Texas trio won all the biggest categories, including record and song of the year for the no-regrets anthem "Not Ready to Make Nice." They also won best country album, which was especially ironic considering they don't consider themselves country artists anymore. "I'm ready to make nice!" lead singer Natalie Maines exclaimed as the group accepted the album of the year award. "I think people are using their freedom of speech with all these awards. We get the message."
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LOS ANGELES (AP) ? The Dixie Chicks completed a defiant comeback on Sunday

night, capturing five Grammy awards after being shunned by

the country music establishment over the group's

anti-Bush comments leading up to the Iraq invasion.

The Texas trio won all the biggest categories, including

record and song of the year for the no-regrets anthem

"Not Ready to Make Nice." They also won best

country album, which was especially ironic considering they

don't consider themselves country artists anymore.

"I'm ready to make nice!" lead singer Natalie

Maines exclaimed as the group accepted the album of the year

award. "I think people are using their freedom of

speech with all these awards. We get the message."

Mary J. Blige's comeback also was richly rewarded: She

received three trophies for her double-platinum album

"The Breakthrough." The Red Hot Chili Peppers won

four for their double-disc "Stadium Arcadium."

The Dixie Chicks won all five awards they were nominated for,

sweet vindication after the superstars' lives were

threatened and sales plummeted when Maines criticized

President Bush on the eve of the Iraq war in 2003. Almost

overnight, one of the most successful groups of any genre

was boycotted by Nashville and disappeared from country radio.

With "Taking the Long Way," the women relied on

producer Rick Rubin's guidance for an album that was

more rock and less country. (Rubin, who also produced

"Stadium Arcadium," was honored as producer of the year.)

The standing ovations the Chicks received Sunday illustrated

how much the political climate has changed regarding the

Iraq war, and even Bush.

"That's interesting," Maines crowed from the

podium after the country award was handed out earlier in the

night. "Well, to quote the great 'Simpsons' ? 'Heh-Heh.'

"Just kidding," added Maines. "A lot of people

just turned their TVs off right now. I'm very sorry for that."

Bandmate Emily Robison noted, "We wouldn't have

done this album without everything we went through, so we

have no regrets."

All the trophies collected by the Dixie Chicks (who shared

song of the year honors with songwriter Dan Wilson), Blige

and the Chili Peppers contributed to the evening's

old-school feel.

The show often derided as The Grannys embraced its baby

boomer status as in its 49th year. Maybe the Recording

Academy was trying to relieve the industry's glory

years ? 2006 saw a sharp downturn in record sales, a decline

that seems to grow each year as fans flock to the Internet

and even ringtones to experience their tunes.

The Grammys tried to tap that new technology with its

"My Grammy Moment" contest, in which three unknown

singers vied for the chance to perform on stage with Justin

Timberlake. Viewers determined the winner by voting on the

Internet and text messaging, but the winner's

performance was forgettable.

The "Moment" also incorporated a bit of

"American Idol" into the telecast. Last year the

Fox talent contest crushed the Grammys on a head-to-head

Wednesday night. So it was no surprise when the Grammys

returned to Sunday this year.

Though the show featured a medley with bright new stars such

as John Mayer, John Legend and Corinne Bailey Rae, it relied

heavily on the classics: Nominee Lionel Richie sang his

'80s hit "Hello" and Smokey Robinson sang the

Motown classic "The Tracks of My Tears" in a

tribute to R&B. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Police,

who split in 1984, reunited to kick off the show with their

rendition of "Roxanne" ? even though they were not

nominated for anything.

Soon afterward, Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder's duet

on a remake of Wonder's "For Once In My Life"

beat out two of the year's biggest songs ? Nelly

Furtado and Timbaland's "Promiscuous"