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It was more than a love of their music that was behind the Dixie Chicks' victory lap at the Grammy Awards Sunday.
The Texans won the three biggest awards - song, record and album of the year - for a disc in which they fought back against a country-music establishment that turned its back on them following 2003 remarks critical of President George W. Bush. They won everything they were nominated for.
Earlier, the band had drawn the first of several standing ovations for a blistering performance of the album's signature track, "Not Ready to Make Nice."
On the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, singer Natalie Maines told a London audience: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." That immediately made the band targets of hate mail, boycotts and talk-radio shouters.
In truth, the Dixie Chicks turned their backs on country, too. They traveled to Los Angeles to make their "Taking the Long Way Home" album with veteran rock and rap producer Rick Rubin. The result had more to do with Southern California rock than country.
The U.S. mood has changed considerably since then, too, as the war has dragged on.
Maines could not resist the rich irony of winning the Grammy Award for best country album for its thumb-in-the-eye retort to the genre's power brokers.
"That's interesting," Maines said. "Well, to quote the great `Simpsons': 'Heh-heh,"' invoking the gloating laugh of a character from the show.
When the song "Not Ready to Make Nice" won song of the year (it later also won record of the year), Maines said: "I for the first time in my life, am speechless."
She quickly got over it.
Don Henley of the Eagles, who happily presented the Dixie Chicks with their album of the year award, openly rooted for them.
"I want to give a shout-out to my friends the Dixie Chicks," he said before reading the nominees. "Nice going," he added with a fist-pump.
Dixie Chick Emily Robison called it a strange place to be, as artists without a genre.
Later, on the verge of tears, she thanked her husband and her children for their support. "They're the ones that probably had it the hardest over the last three years, and I just wanted to recognize that we know what you went through. Thank you very much."
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