I remember being five years old and sitting in the backseat, banging on imaginary drums as we sped down the highway. My mom had one hand on the wheel, the other holding pink lipstick, fixing her face in the mirror after a Starbucks run and smiling back at me.
“Wouldn’t kiss all the asses that they told me to!” I screamed, my favorite line in my favorite Dixie Chicks song, “The Long Way Around.”
“You know you’re only allowed to say that word when you sing this song, right?” My mom jokingly warned, seeing the fervor with which I’d sang along.
“Yeah, of course!” I squeezed in before the chorus started, knowing full well I’d already told my friends the scandalous nature of my favorite tune.
I remember being thirteen, angsty and nothing less than a free spirit. “Ready to Run” was my anthem. When I listened to “I’ll buy a ticket to anywhere/I’m gonna be ready this time” I knew there was nothing in the world capable of stopping me, I was independent and free. I would never be stuck slaving after three kids and a dog, chasing after a husband in love with his assistant. I would see the world, I would make an impact. I would do something worth witnessing.
I remember being sixteen and reading my college acceptance letter. As I cried and jumped with joy, screaming so loud I scared my cat, I was more elated than I’d ever been. On that screen, I saw my future. The next morning, on the way to school, I played “Wide Open Spaces,” and my mom and I cried in the carpool lane. As “To find a dream and a life of their own /A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone” played, the bittersweet realization hit us that all those dreams I’d had for so many years were finally something concrete.
My parents and I have listened to the Dixie Chicks for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I knew there was a controversy surrounding their political statements, I knew protesters had destroyed their CDs. I didn’t understand it. When I heard “Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing/Or my life will be over”, I was genuinely worried that Natalie Maines had died. It wasn’t until I started exploring music independently as a teenager, falling in love with bands like Black Flag, The Wonder Years, and worlds greatest dad, that I truly appreciated the bravery of the Dixie Chicks.
When I think of what “punk” means, I don’t think of reverb-heavy guitars or screaming vocals. I think of the courage to go against the status quo in the name of art and justice. I might not get punched in the face or worry about my piercings in the pit of a Dixie Chicks concert, but they are the most punk band I have in my Spotify library. Their music defines how I grew up. A little unconventional, a little chaotic, but strong enough to accomplish anything I put my mind to.
The Dixie Chicks taught me to say “fuck it” and do what I want, not letting anyone stand in my way.