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
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"