Review of “Shut Up and Sing” by Barbara Kopple & Cecilia Peck

Shut Up and Sing by Barbara Kopple & Cecilia Peck

Rating *****

This is the story of how a simple quip made between songs snowballed into what became a national campaign against the Dixie Chicks. Overnight the Dixie Chicks were labeled as unpatriotic. Country radio stopped playing the group’s songs; their CDs were crushed by steam rollers. There were death threats. Fortunately, someone was smart enough to capture the whole ugly affair from the Dixie Chicks’ perspective. The behind the scenes footage is candid and well shot. The viewer is a fly on the wall as the Chicks and manager Simon Renshaw plot different strategies for dealing with the growing controversy.

The Dixie Chicks answer critics by putting out a solid follow-up album full of personally penned songs.  Much of the film follows the trio as they write and record songs for the new album all while a firestorm rages around them.

As the album nears completion, the anti Chicks movement threatens to derail their careers. They are forced to cancel or move concert dates because of sluggish ticket sales. Concert venues are forced to add extra security. And they are still faced with the problem of promoting the album without getting airplay from Country radio. DJ’s and radio station managers defend their actions by claiming that they would lose listeners and advertisers if they were to play Dixie Chicks songs.

As the Iraq war drags on and the president’s approval rating plummets, the issue turns into one of free speech. Their album becomes a hit despite the lack of airplay. Veteran film makers Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck have crafted a great documentary. I highly recommend it.

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