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Dixie Chicks see
redemption at Grammys

Dixie Chicks see
redemption at Grammys

Country music outcasts the Dixie Chicks, who jeopardized their career by criticizing President Bush, won all five Grammy awards for which they were nominated on Sunday, including the coveted Album of the Year.

The victory for their work on the chart-topping album Taking the Long Way marked a stunning validation for the female Texan trio almost four years after their dream run as the darlings of Nashville came to an abrupt end.

Singer Natalie Maines told fans during a 2003 concert in London she was ashamed to come from the same state as Bush.

As news of the off-the-cuff comment spread, the group was transformed into pariahs. Country radio stations stopped playing their songs, while album and ticket sales suffered.

"I think people are using their freedom of speech tonight with all of these awards," Maines said, as the group accepted the final award of the ceremony, Album of the Year.

Bandmate Emily Robison said: "We wouldn't have made this album without everything we went through, so we have no regrets."

Backstage, Robison's sister, Martie Maguire, shied away from declaring vindication, saying it ran counter to artistic principles.

The Dixie Chicks' tally included Best Country Album, as well as Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and group country vocal performance for the appropriately wry single "Not Ready to Make Nice." Their career Grammy haul stands at 13.

The last time an act swept the album, record, and song categories was in 1993, when Eric Clapton led the field. The last country act to win Album of the Year was Glen Campbell in 1969 with By the Time I Get to Phoenix.

It was a good night for Nashville, as former American Idol champion Carrie Underwood took the closely watched honor for Best New Artist, further enhancing the star-making power of the hit TV talent show.

Underwood, the winner of the fourth season of American Idol in 2005, also clinched the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. "This is absolutely unbelievable! I love country music," the 23-year-old Nashville star said.


A sentimental highlight came as reunited rock band the Police opened the televised ceremony by playing their first major public show in more than 20 years, dusting off a jazzy version of their breakthrough hit "Roxanne."

R&B singer Mary J. Blige had led the field going into the show with eight nominations. She went home with three awards but said backstage that the wins were icing on the cake after the thrill of being nominated.

Blige won Best R&B Album for The Breakthrough as well as awards for R&B song and female R&B vocal performance, both for the tune "Be Without You."

The Red Hot Chili Peppers ended up with four statuettes from six nominations, including Best Rock Album for their double set Stadium Arcadium. The flamboyant surf-funk quartet has now won six Grammys.

Double winners included Bob Dylan, soul-pop duo Gnarls Barkley, rock crooner John Mayer, veteran balladeer Tony Bennett, R&B singer John Legend, rock troubadour Bruce Springsteen, gospel star Kirk Franklin, late jazz soloist Michael Brecker, jazz pianist Chick Corea, film composer John Williams, classical conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and rapper Ludacris.

Motown icon Stevie Wonder won a Grammy, with his career tally of 25 statuettes now making him number 4 on the all-time list, tied with late classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz. The record of 31 is held by late conductor Georg Solti.

Two artists with five nominations each going into the telecast, James Blunt and Prince, went home empty-handed.

Other losers included Neil Young, hoping for the first Grammys of his career with three nominations. After two consecutive years of clean sweeps, Irish rock band U2 failed to turn their two nominations into Grammy gold.

R&B singer Beyonce won one Grammy from four nominations. (Reuters)

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