The roots of the band Heart actually go back over forty years. While there have been a number of members of the group over the years, including, briefly, brothers Roger and Mike Fisher, it’s been sisters Ann Wilson on vocals, and guitarist Nancy Wilson, who have been at the heart of the group since 1974. Their careers have had lots of ups and downs, but they survive. They were, rightly, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
One of my colleagues loves Red Velvet Car, their 2010 album, which was the group’s first Top 10 album in 20 years. I probably should check out that collection because it’s supposed to be “a return to the melodic hard rock and folk sound of early Heart albums.” And I loved early Heart.
The Dreamboat Annie album from 1976 featured Crazy on You [LISTEN]; given the airplay it got, I’m surprised it only made it to #35. Magic Man [LISTEN] was the bigger hit, going to #9.
The origin of their next hit was interesting, to say the least. From the Wikipedia:
Mushroom [Records, their label] ran a full-page advertisement in Rolling Stone magazine showing the bare-shouldered Wilson sisters (as on the “Dreamboat Annie” album cover) with the suggestive caption, “It was only our first time!”. When a reporter suggested, backstage after a live appearance, that the sisters were sex partners, the infuriated Ann returned to her hotel room and began writing the lyrics to “Barracuda”.
Amid dueling record label fussing – they quit Mushroom and moved to CBS/Portrait – Barracuda [LISTEN] got to #11, almost certainly my favorite Heart song.
They suffered some commercial decline in the early 1980s, but returned to commercial form in 1985 with the eponymous Heart album [LISTEN to all], featuring the #1 hit These Dreams (1986), plus What About Love (#10 in 1985), Never (#4 in 1986), and Nothin’ At All (#10 in 1986). But this wasn’t the Heart I really loved – I barely remember Nothin’ at All.
The last time I noticed Heart was when I watched the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors, and Ann and Nancy Wilson were asked to perform at the event in tribute to Led Zeppelin. The Wilson sisters, along with Jason Bonham (son of the late LZ drummer John Bonham) performed Stairway to Heaven [LISTEN!], which brought tears to Robert Plant’s eyes.
Seriously, it took me a little while to figure out there could be TWO women in music named Nancy Wilson. The one I knew first was a black songstress whose albums were hawked on the inner sleeves of my Beatles and Beach Boys albums.