Springsteen said the Dixie Chicks were "terrific American artists"
Bruce Springsteen has given his support to country band the Dixie Chicks, who have faced severe criticism over a comment they made about President George Bush.
The Dixie Chicks received death threats, had their records burned and were removed from radio playlists after singer Natalie Maines said she was embarrassed that Bush was from her home state of Texas.
But Springsteen said the band were merely expressing their "right to free speech" and had received a "raw deal" from critics.
We are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq
In a message on his official website, the star said: "To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech.
"For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American."
The three members of the band - Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison - recently appeared on the front cover of popular magazine Entertainment Weekly in the nude.
The band recently posed for US magazine Entertainment Weekly
The singers' bodies were daubed with words and slogans that have been aimed at them in recent weeks, including "brave", "traitor" and "Saddam's angels".
In a recent interview with US network ABC, Maines said she regretted her comment but remained passionately against the war.
Springsteen said there was a "pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war".
He said pressure "goes against everything that this country is about - namely freedom".
"Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home," he said.
"I don't know what happens next, but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support."