Biggest Country Music Controversies Through the Years
Sometimes America’s sweethearts go sour. From Morgan Wallen to The Chicks, the biggest names in country music have been at the center of some major controversies.
Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer found themselves in hot water in the early 2000s after sharing their personal politics on a public stage. While performing across the pond, the trio — formerly known as the Dixie Chicks — expressed their disappointment in then-President George W. Bush as he prepared to send troops to the Middle East.
“Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas,” Maines told the crowd in 2003.
The comment spread like wildfire, and the 13-time Grammy winners subsequently faced consequences within the industry. Their record sales slowed and their songs were blacklisted by the genre’s leading radio stations. Though she initially apologized, Maines told TIME magazine in 2006 that she had no regrets.
“I apologized for disrespecting the office of the President,” she said. “But I don’t feel that way anymore. I don’t feel he is owed any respect whatsoever.”
After years away from the spotlight, the “Everybody Knows” artists made a major comeback in 2020, dropping the “Dixie” from their name amid the rise in Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. When asked about their extended hiatus — and whether it would have happened without their 2003 controversy — Maines told The Guardian the group had “no complaints” about their trajectory.
“It’s just not in our nature to think like that,” the singer said in July 2020. “It was unfortunate to learn that there was that sort of hatred. But we had our ego cups very filled. We weren’t grasping and desperate.”
More recently, Wallen experienced a ban of his own. In February 2021, footage surfaced of the “7 Summers” crooner using the N-word, prompting his label to briefly remove him from their roster. Despite not getting played on some radio stations, Wallen’s record soared to the top of the charts amid the backlash.
The “Cover Me Up” artist revealed in July 2021 that he spent 30 days in a treatment facility after the scandal broke. “I didn’t mean [the word] in any derogatory manner at all,” he told Good Morning America at the time. “I think I was just ignorant about it. I don’t think I sat down and was like, ‘Hey, is this right or is this wrong?’”
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Scroll down to see some of country music’s biggest controversies through the years, from cheating scandals to legal battles: