Story Highlights• Dixie Chicks have album, song, record of year
• Red Hot Chili Peppers earn four awards
• Carrie Underwood is best new artist
• Mary J. Blige wins best R&B performance, album, song
By Todd Leopold
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(CNN) -- The Dixie Chicks sang "Not Ready to Make Nice," but the Grammy Awards were certainly ready to make them winners, honoring the trio with five awards Sunday night.
The Chicks, who ignited controversy four years ago when lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush on the eve of the Iraq war, won all five of the awards for which they were nominated, including the big three: album of the year (for "Taking the Long Way"), song of the year and record of the year (both for "Not Ready to Make Nice").
"I think people are using their freedom of speech with all these awards. We get the message," said Maines, paying tribute to other nominees with an oblique acknowledgement that the group was being honored as much for its stand as its music. "I'm very humbled." (Gallery: Grammy winners and the stars on the red carpet)
The Chicks had a difficult time in the years before recording "Taking the Long Way." Once the biggest-selling group in country music -- the Chicks' first two albums, "Wide Open Spaces" and "Fly" -- were two of the most popular country albums ever -- they found themselves abandoned by country radio stations and pilloried by many fans for their political stand. Indeed, with "Taking the Long Way" the group members have said they don't consider themselves country artists anymore.
"We wouldn't have made this album without everything we went through, so we have no regrets," said band member Emily Robison. (Watch the Chicks talk about their big night )
Ironically, the Chicks' other awards included best country performance by a duo or group with vocal and best country album for "Taking the Long Way."
The Chicks -- Maines, Robison and Martie Maguire -- shared the song of the year award with co-writer Dan Wilson, formerly of Semisonic and Trip Shakespeare. "Taking the Long Way's" producer, the versatile Rick Rubin, won the producer of the year award -- his first after five nominations.
Mary J. Blige, who led all nominees with eight Grammy nods, took home three Sunday night, winning R&B performance, R&B album and R&B song. Blige overcame a number of personal problems before recording her album, "The Breakthrough," and alluded to them in her acceptance speeches.
"This is a great night for me," the singer said after the R&B performance award. "Success exposes who you really are, and I want to use this success to build bridges, not to burn them."
Before the show, Blige told CNN she's pleased just to be in the running.
"This is like a dream come true for me," the singer told Brooke Anderson on the red carpet. (Watch Blige talk about her appreciation for her position )
The Red Hot Chili Peppers won four Grammys: for best rock song, best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal (both for "Dani California"), best rock album and best limited edition package (for "Stadium Arcadium"). (Watch the Peppers describe their "awe" at music and life )
Carrie Underwood, a former "American Idol" champion, showed the continuing power of the hit Fox program in shaping stars. Underwood picked up Grammys for best new artist and best female country performance.
"This is absolutely unbelievable," Underwood said after the best new artist honor, adding "I owe everything to Simon Fuller," the creator of "Idol." The songwriters of her "Jesus, Take the Wheel" also tallied a win. (Watch Underwood talk about her rise to stardom )
Kelly Clarkson, the first "American Idol" winner, took home two Grammys in 2006. Other "Idol" winners have been nominated for the award.
The Grammys, which have suffered in the ratings in recent years, took a page from the "Idol" playbook by having viewers vote on an unknown singer to perform with Justin Timberlake. The winner was Robyn Troup of Houston, Texas.
Two more for Dylan
The Grammys produced several multiple-award winners.
John Mayer won best male pop vocal performance and best pop vocal album, the latter for his "Continuum." (Watch Mayer describe how music is "regenerated" )
Gnarls Barkley won best urban/alternative performance and alternative music album and gave a terrific performance of their hit song "Crazy."
Bob Dylan -- who was, to many observers' surprise, shut out of the best album nominations -- won the consolation of having his "Modern Times" named best contemporary folk/Americana album. The 65-year-old bard also won best solo rock performance
Other Grammy winners included Ludacris, who won best rap album and impishly thanked Oprah Winfrey and Bill O'Reilly; Ike Turner, who won traditional blues album for "Risin' with the Blues"; and the San Francisco Symphony, whose performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 7 won awards for best classical album and best orchestral performance.
Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder won the first award of the evening, for pop collaboration with vocals, for "For Once In My Life."
"This is an amazing moment for me. It's amazing to know that I did this song when I was 17 a whole 'nother way and to come back and do it with the great Tony Bennett," Wonder said.
Newcomers and veterans
Some winners couldn't believe their good fortune.
Chamillionaire, who won rap performance by a duo or group, was still overwhelmed as he talked to CNN on the red carpet. "I used to be watching this on TV, so to be here ..." he told CNN. "The A-plus stars are out for this."
The show was opened by the reunited Police, a band that broke up in 1984. They performed a sort-of mashup version of "Roxanne" -- with elements of "Driven to Tears" -- and earned a standing ovation.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers performed amid a constant wind of confetti and in front of a sign that read, "Love to Ornette Coleman," paying tribute to the jazzman who was honored with a lifetime achievement award.
Other performances included a tribute to country pioneer Bob Wills and Eagles drummer Don Henley by the country group Rascal Flatts and Underwood, who performed a medley of Wills' and the Eagles' songs, focusing on the latter; and a R&B/hip-hop medley that led off with Smokey Robinson delivering "The Tracks of My Tears" and concluded with Christina Aguilera performing James Brown's "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World."
Brown also received a tribute late in the show, during the ceremony's remembrance of performers and music industry professionals who had died in the past year. A cape was draped over a microphone stand at the segment's conclusion -- an echo of the finale of Brown's concerts, in which the Godfather of Soul was covered with a cape as he faltered only to rise up, one more time, to belt out a number.
On this Grammy night, it was the Dixie Chicks who received new life.
The Dixie Chicks won five Grammys, including album of the year.