Dixie Chicks overcome Bush fallout to clinch five Grammys

COUNTRY music outcasts The Dixie Chicks, who jeopardised their career by criticising US President George W Bush, won all five Grammy Awards for which they were nominated, including the coveted album of the year.

The band endured death threats, public CD burnings and country radio boycotts after lead singer Natalie Maines told gig-goers in London in March 2003 that she was “ashamed” the president was from her home state of Texas.

But this year they led the field at the Grammys with five awards, including best record and best song for their no-regrets anthem Not Ready To Make Nice.

The band also won best country album, a particularly ironic triumph given the fury of the country community over their Bush comment, and the fact that they do not even consider themselves country artists any more.

“I’m ready to make nice,” Ms Maines said as the group accepted the best record trophy.

“I think people are using their freedom of speech with all of these awards.”

The standing ovations received by the Dixie Chicks were a telling illustration of how far Americans have swung against the Iraq war and Mr Bush.

While Ms Maines’s comment at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2003 went down a treat with anti-war Londoners, in the US it swiftly led to plummeting album sales for the group.

Mary J Blige was another big Grammy winner, with three awards for her double-platinum album The Breakthrough.

A tearful Ms Blige said her album showed she was “growing into a better human being”.

“Tonight we celebrate the better human being because for so many years, I’ve been talked about negatively,” said the singer, who during her 15-year career has often discussed her past substance and self-esteem problems.

“But this time I’ve been talked about positively by so many people,” she said.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers won four awards for Stadium Arcadium, while Irish star Enya picked up the best new age album prize for Amarantine.

Kent-born Peter Frampton took the best pop instrumental album award for Fingerprints.

It was a bleak night for British artists, who were shunned at the ceremony.

Singer James Blunt, who was nominated in five categories including best newcomer, best record and best song, came away with no awards. Corinne Bailey Rae and Imogen Heap also lost out in the newcomer category to former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. Others who went home empty-handed included the Arctic Monkeys, Goldfrapp, Coldplay and the Pet Shop Boys.

Arresting: Police back on the beat

THE Police marked their return to the stage with a show-stopping appearance at the Grammy Awards.

The band reunited to open the ceremony with a rendition of breakthrough hit Roxanne 23 years after splitting up.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are The Police and we’re back!” frontman Sting announced as he took to the stage in Los Angeles.

Sporting a black waistcoat over a bare chest and his classic 1980s bleach-blonde spiked crop, he clasped hands with drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers to take a bow.

The Police have played together only a handful of times since splitting in 1984. They performed an impromptu set at Sting’s wedding to Trudie Styler in 1992 and were last in action in celebration of their 2003 induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. They are due to announce a comeback tour, beginning in Europe in the autumn. It is an announcement that will mark 30 years since the band formed and released debut single Fall Out.

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