The Chicks were the darlings of country music in the 1990s when Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Strayer were known as the Dixie Chicks. Grammy Awards, CMA Awards, ACM Awards, No. 1 albums, No. 1 singles—The Chicks could do no wrong.
Of course, in 2003, Natalie made a comment about then-President George W. Bush during a show in London that wasn’t well-received back home: “We do not want this [Iraq] war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” While the resulting backlash made The Chicks public enemy No. 1 at country radio, the trio never stopped selling albums. The proof?
The Chicks are at No. 11 on our list of the Best-Selling Country Artists of All Time, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
The RIAA tracks domestic album sales in the U.S. with its shiny designations: Gold (500,000 units), Platinum (1 million units), Multi-Platinum (2 million units and more), and Diamond (10 million units).
- No. 20: Carrie Underwood
- No. 19: Johnny Cash
- No. 18: Vince Gill
- No. 17: Toby Keith
- No. 16: Faith Hill
- No. 15: Brooks & Dunn
- No. 14: Linda Ronstadt
- No. 13: Kenny Chesney
- No. 12: Willie Nelson
No. 11: The Chicks
- 33 Million Units Sold
- 2 Diamond Albums
- 2 Multi-Platinum Albums
- 1 Platinum Album
- 1 Multi-Platinum Single
- 4 Platinum Singles
- 4 Gold Singles
The Chicks are in rarefied air with two of their albums, 1998’s Wide Open Spaces, and 1999’s Fly. Both albums have been certified Diamond for sales of more than 10 million units. Wide Open Spaces is certified 13X Platinum for sales of 13 million units, while Fly is certified 11X Platinum for sales of 11 million units.
Only two other country artists can claim multiple Diamond-certified albums: Garth Brooks and Shania Twain.
The Chicks have scored two additional Multi-Platinum albums, 2002’s Home (6X), and 2006’s Taking the Long Way (2X). In addition, 2003’s Top of the World: Live has been certified Platinum.
Still Not Ready
The Chicks’ best-selling single of all time is “Not Ready to Make Nice,” which was the lead single from their 2006 album, Taking the Long Way.
The single has been certified 2X Platinum for sales of 2 million units. The Chicks were still considered pariahs at country radio in 2006, which makes the accomplishment even more impressive. The single reached No. 4 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, while only peaking at No. 36 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
In addition, The Chicks hatched four more Platinum singles: “Landslide,” “Goodbye Earl,” “Wide Open Spaces,” and “Travelin’ Soldier.”
In Defense of The Chicks
The Chicks could have easily gone on a national apology tour back in 2003 after Natalie’s comments about W. They did not. And for 18 years, Martie and Emily have had Natalie’s back. While Natalie admitted her choice of words was “disrespectful,” she refused to walk back her comments.
Now, I’m not here to defend Natalie, Martie, and Emily as people. I’m not here to defend Natalie’s comments. I’m here to defend them as artists. While folks literally burned their CDs in 2003, and country radio basically cancelled them, The Chicks still moved a lot of music post-2003. As much as they would have sans comments? No. But only one band in country music history (Alabama) has sold more albums.
More importantly, The Chicks continued to inspire a number of future stars, including Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, and Maddie & Tae, among others.