On this day in 1998, the Dixie Chicks, now known as just The Chicks, released their major-label debut as a group. The album was called “Wide Open Spaces” and really pushed the group into the mainstream country audience.
The original group consisted of Laura Lynch, Robin Lynn Macy, sisters Martie and Emily Erwin (now Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer).
According to The Boot, the group has since shifted considerably. The band had been releasing music as an independent band prior to their deal with Monument Records. Along the way, Macy had left the group and Natalie Maines replaced Lynch. Some of the original members would never be a part of the major-label debut with hit songs like “I Can Love You Better” and “Loving Arms.”
“I Can Love You Better” was No. 7 on the country charts when it was released as the first single from the album. The three other singles released were “There’s Your Trouble,” “Wide Open Spaces,” and “You Were Mine.” They all reached No. 1 on the charts.
Behind the Title Track
While the album had many hits that got The Chicks popular, “Wide Open Spaces” remains one of their signature songs. The video for the song had also won the Country Music Association’s Video of the Year award in 1999. The song also won a Grammy Award for Best Country Album in 1999.
What was the ’90s award-winning The Chicks song that helped launch the group into stardom about?
The song was written by Sarah Gibson, who is actually the lead singer of the band The Groobees. It was a college student, young-rebellion song.
According to SongFacts.com, Gibson told The Montanan, “My mom probably said something like, ‘What time did you get home last night, honey?’ Whatever it was rubbed me the wrong way. I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote furiously for twelve minutes, and then I went and did something else. I forgot all about it.”
The song was widely personal. It featured specific moments between her and her parents. These moments are when her dad reminds her to check the oil or her mom wishes her goodbye.
“As her folks drive away, her dad yells, ‘Check the oil!’ / Mom stares out the window and says, ‘I’m leaving my girl’/ She said, ‘It didn’t seem like that long ago’ / When she stood there and let her own folks know.”
However, when she heard The Chicks’ version she knew that her heartfelt and personal song belonged to her, but had been reimagined in a wonderful way.
“It made me bawl my eyes out. It was so beautiful—it had this stunning musicianship and very professional production. I could still see my handwriting on the page, and here was this gorgeous recording of it.”
The Decision to Change Name
“Wide Open Spaces” had become a popular title in country music. The name “The Dixie Chicks” had also become a household name. So, why did the group change their name last year after having that name since the ’90s?
According to Martie Maguire, it was because the group wants to be “on the right side of history,” she said in an interview with The Independent.
The group said: “People who live in the South have lived with the word ‘Dixie’ and the [Confederate] flag for a long time.”
To change the name “takes a movement,” but they are glad they can abandon a part of their band name that can be considered hurtful to some people. The decision came after George Floyd protests.
“If Black Lives Matter and George Floyd’s murder hadn’t happened, we might’ve waited another couple of years, I don’t know, but it definitely lit a fire in us to be on the right side of history,” Maguire said.
The band has long expressed its personal and political beliefs. In 2003, the group said it’s ashamed that George W. Bush was from their home state of Texas. Their fans, most of which were conservative, lashed out. The group said that they “don’t feel a part of the country scene any longer.”
Since then, The Chicks have been included in a more mainstream audience. They have been endorsed by other artists like Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Grimes. The group has also said the 2003 transition away from country music allowed them to write more candidly, which is apparent on their newest album, “Gaslighter.”