Toby Keith and The Chicks Feuded for Years Over the Politics of the Bush Era

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Feb. 7 2024, Published 10:11 a.m. ET

Toby Keith and Natalie MAines at separate events in 2002 and 2003.
Source: Getty Images

Due to Toby Keith's prominence in the world of country music in the 21st century, his death on Feb. 5, 2024, has led to a profound reevaluation of everything from his music to his personal life and politics. Among the things many are revisiting in the wake of his passing is the feud he once had with The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks).

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The feud dates back more than 20 years, but many wanted to better understand what it was about and whether it had ever been resolved. Here's what we know about why Toby Keith and The Chicks started going after each other and how the feud unfolded.

Toby Keith performing at the 27th ACM Awards.
Source: Getty Images
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What happened between Toby Keith and The Dixie Chicks?

The whole thing started after Toby wrote a song called "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" in 2002, shortly after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The song was written to be a rallying cry for all patriotic Americans who wanted to see the country go to war to take on the terrorists that had attacked us. Of course, this patriotic moment ultimately ensnared the U.S. in a conflict that it would take decades to fully disentangle from.

The song was both controversial and popular upon its initial release. Natalie Maines of The Chicks was one of many to weigh in on it, and the politics of those years more generally.

"Don't get me started," Natalie said in an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News. "I hate it. It's ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant. It targets an entire culture — and not just the bad people who did bad things."

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"You've got to have some tact," Natalie continued. "Anybody can write, 'We'll put a boot in your ass.' But a lot of people agree with it. The kinds of songs I prefer on the subject are like Bruce Springsteen's new songs."

Things only escalated from there, as Toby started putting pictures of Natalie up next to photos of Saddam Hussein at his concerts in 2003, implying a similarity between them.

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At the ACM Awards in 2003, Natalie wore a shirt that said "F.U.T.K." At the time, The Chicks claimed the shirt stood for "Friends United Together in Kindness" or "Freedom, Understanding, Truth and Knowledge," but they eventually confirmed that the shirt actually stood for "F--k you, Toby Keith." The Chicks were in effect banished from the world of country music for over a decade, in part because of their willingness to speak out politically.

The feud between Toby and the band ultimately came to an end after one of his band members lost a toddler to cancer.

“A few days after I found she didn’t have long to live,” he told Contact Music, “I saw a picture on the cover of Country Weekly with a picture of me and Natalie and it said, ‘Fight to the Death’ or something. It seemed so insignificant. I said, ‘Enough is enough.'”

Toby later admitted he was embarrassed by the whole affair.

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