Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces

I’m not a big fan of newer country music…but this song sounded fresh when it was released. The song crossed over and peaked at #41 in the Billboard 100, #1 in the US Country Songs, and #1 Canda Country Tracks in 1998. The song was on the album Wide Open Spaces and it peaked at #4 on the Billboard Album Charts, #1 on the Country Album Charts, and #1 in the Canadian Country Album Charts in 1999.

Susan Gibson wrote the song years earlier. Gibson was the lead singer of the alt-country band The Groobees. They decided to include “Wide Open Spaces” on their album and their producer was Lloyd Maines… the father of Dixie Chicks lead singer, Natalie Maines. He thought the song would be perfect for the Dixie Chicks and they agreed. After testing it on a couple of audiences, they made it the title track for their major-label debut.

This album was the first album which Natalie Maines was the lead singer.

Their career was going great until all hell broke loose in 2003 after lead singer Natalie Maines criticized George Bush and the invasion of Iraq during a London concert. Country radio led the backlash against the Dixie Chicks. Stations banned their music and even told listeners to trash their CDs.

This defiant, nude cover on ‘Entertainment Weekly’ added fuel to the fire.

Image result for Natalie Maines nude

If this would have been a rock act that did the same thing…would this have happened? I would say no…

On June 26, 2019, The Dixie Chicks has confirmed that they are returning to music with a new studio album after a 13-year hiatus. They are expecting to record their first new studio album since 2006’s Taking the Long Way.


From Songfacts

This song was written by Susan Gibson, who was lead singer of a Texas-based band called The Groobees. She wrote the tune back in 1993 in a spirit of rebellion during her first return home from the University of Montana for Christmas break. “My mom probably said something like, ‘What time did you get home last night, honey?’ Whatever it was rubbed me the wrong way,” Gibson told The Montanan. “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 lyrics were so specific to Gibson’s own experience, including lines about her dad warning her to check the oil in her car, she was hesitant about giving away such a personal song. Then she heard the Dixie Chicks’ version: “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.”

Lloyd Maines, father of Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, worked with The Groobees, and brought the song to the Chicks. The Groobees recorded their version in 1999. 

Thom Oliphant helmed the music video, which intercuts touring footage with the girls singing in open fields of wildflowers as well as performing at Winter Park, Colorado’s annual West Fest. In a Songfacts interview, Oliphant recalled: “That song probably moved them from big clubs to arenas over the course of that year, so we were just out documenting.

A lot of that stuff was shot without a clock ticking. You’re on a bus and we would shoot some stuff, and then it all was woven together with a couple of big days of shooting out around Denver. It made it look like it was all about the same time, but it wasn’t.”

The video was named the Country Music Association’s Video of the Year in 1999.

The Groobees broke up a couple of years after this became a hit, partly because they couldn’t agree on how to handle the success. Susan Gibson, who collected the bulk of the royalties as the tune’s sole writer, explained in Lone Star Music Magazine: “We were once a unified band with nothing to lose and all struggling in the same direction. Some band members thought that the success of that song meant that we could afford to take those crappy-paying, but good-exposure gigs. Others thought it meant we didn’t have to. That discrepancy resulted in each of us taking our own piece of the pie and going forward in our different directions.”

Gibson has since carved a career for herself as a solo artist, but still delights in hearing fans talk about the song: “Because the Dixie Chicks made that song so huge, I have enjoyed the look on people’s faces when they hear that I wrote that song. About 80 percent of the time, somebody has a cool story attached to it about leaving home, getting married, getting divorced, and breaking down in Moab, Utah. 19 percent of the time it’s like, ‘Oh! My mom loooooves that song!’ And there’s 1 percent out there that are like, ‘I don’t really listen to music.’ That’s OK. It’s the stories that I hear back from people that put a face to the huge numbers associated with that song.”

This spent four weeks at #1 on the country chart.

Wide Open Spaces

Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about
Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow
A young girl’s dreams no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She traveled this road as a child
Wide eyed and grinning, she never tired
But now she won’t be coming back with the rest
If these are life’s lessons, she’ll take this test

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She knows the high stakes

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

She needed wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She knows the high stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes
She knows the highest stakes

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

26 thoughts on “Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces”

  1. That is an enjoyable album- Wide Open Spaces is my second favorite song on it – to There’s Your Trouble- one of my favorite songs of that time. I agree if they had been a rock band they wouldn’t have faced the backlash. Also- 16 years later- who was right on Iraq? Dubya or The Dixie Chicks? I think the evidence suggests Iraq was a mistake.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When that was going on I was thinking witch hunt. If they would have been a rock band they might have gotten a pat on the head.
      I have to wonder if country radio plays them now? Yes I agree with you it was a mistake.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I don’t think we would have heard quite the uproar. The public didn’t bother me… if it would have been a ground swell thing I would have gotten it… what I didn’t like were the execs and DJs pushing it out.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m strictly in the ‘shut up and sing’ camp with the Chicks. When this song was out, the Chicks seemed too fake to me; sort of like the Spice Girls. Then I started appreciating their music and talent, and then everything fell apart. I do like that they took on their label, but that too held up their new music releases.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I saw how talented they really were when they came out…I took notice. At first I thought it was just another Country image group but they did have substance. Yes, it derailed their career and it will never get back to where it was at. They should be releasing something soon according to what I found.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I quite like the track and the few tracks I’ve heard by them. To me, one of the more palatable of modern country artists (but I don’t listen to much country; have a soft spot for some of the old country my Dad seemed to like when I was little like Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn). As you suggested, a rock act wouldn’t have faced so much heat for what they said; it’s rather “assumed” rock stars would be Liberal/Democrats while country ones would be Conservative/Republican.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know I like old country almost exclusively…
      Yes I agree… I’m neither conservative or liberal… What I didn’t like was the DJs and executives pushing it


  4. Love The Dixie Chicks. Very unique group. That’s something you don’t hear very often in country. They really got a raw deal. The sisters are great musicians and had been a big thing in Texas for a good while before Maines joined. She was definitely the wild card. She carried the over the top and into the spotlight.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I hesitated for months before posting this.. but what got me upset were the DJs and the executives pushing it down people’s throats… not the song but what she said.
      Yes they were different than the other country groups. That is why I like them.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah. I hate it when a machine tries to stifle the rights and individuality of its artists and try to shape the minds of the fans or kowtow to the whims of the fans. Of course, they do it all the time, only it’s on the more liberal spectrum, but we don’t notice that as much…At least those of us who like rock, alternative, pop and the like. But, I agree, it was disgusting what the DJs and music executive did to them.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. They do it all of the time I agree. Many times in increments and it happens before we know what happened.

        Off Topic… Hans was talking about a book he was reading and it sounded great…One that I am reading now…I think you would really like it. Before I start… it’s about how the trial and investigation of Manson was handled. It is NOT a bio of him… How legally he should have not have been even free when all of it took place…it also gets into cover ups etc.

        Anyway I just wanted to pass this info to you…you may have no interest in it but I got the audio version and cannot stop listening. The aurthor uncovers a lot…and about Bugliosi.
        It’s called Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties

        Anyway Pam…I thought I would pass it along.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Musicians are the heroes of a culture. Big Brother made a strategic move when they maligned The Dixie Chicks for criticizing our involvement in Iraq. What happened with Bush and Iraq was a trial run for everything that has followed. Are you saying The Dixie Chicks left music because of the witch hunt? (Sorry I’m out of the loop with them.) That’s a real shame. To silence our heroes is the ultimate evil! I’m glad they’re coming back and will make sure to listen to their new music. Now about the song: wonderful anthem that would fit anyone’s journey. Reminds me of She’s Leaving Home in theme.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not an expert on them but I know that the Country scene blacklisted them pretty much. They had death threats and the whole bit. What made me upset was the DJs and the Country music Executives getting everyone riled up.
      If the public would have just said…ok we won’t buy your records…then Ok…but it was the DJ’s constant berating on air… The Chicks then switched over to Pop more than country. They took a break for a while…and had trouble with their record company…

      Hardly any country artist would back them up…
      Merle did though. “I don’t even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Funny story:

    In Detroit, they used to host a Downtown Hoedown in Hart Plaza. It was a two-three day weekend with all kinds of artists playing. Many new artists jumped at the chance to play this show. I worked at the station that hosted this event one year and they had a shuttle that ran from the station to Hart Plaza for staff.

    The Chicks had just come out and there was a lot of talk about how traditional they sounded. Their stuff sounded “old” to many. After putting in an extra long day, I was waiting on the shuttle with one of the interns. He looked out the windows and said, “There are the Dixie Chicks!” I told him, “They sound old … they sadly probably won’t be around long.” He ran out to get their autograph and a picture. I stayed on the shuttle. I regret that! LOL.


  7. That Dixie Chicks bomb was annoying…all the way around. We had no biz in Iraq. The blacklisting was ugly as people lined up to defend a freaking war. Natalie is obnoxious and I dislike musicians being mouthy. If you wanna write a song about your frustrations, I will listen. But, stand on stage and bitch? Get a therapist. Green Day funneled angst about Dubya with ‘Holiday’…a great song.

    I always preferred SheDaisy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As far as agreeing with her saying it…no…it was just mouthing but I didn’t like the blacklisting by the DJ’s and such.


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