“We’re weren’t going to be sold as cheesecake,” lead singer Ann Wilson said in a VH1 interview. “We were going to be ourselves.”
Wilson and her sister Nancy continue to top the charts — 2012’s Fanatic made Billboard’s Top 25, the 12th Heart album to do so. In lieu of the band’s stop at Washington State University’s Beasley Coliseum, five songs tell part of the four-decade story of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.
Click on the song titles to view classic Heart performances.
Ann Wilson began singing with a Seattle-area group in the early 1970s, Nancy joined soon thereafter, and in the summer of 1976, the wild passion of “Crazy On You” and “Magic Man” put Heart on the map. Parents remember the lighters aloft when their classic rock station plays either song, but a younger generation wails along with Heart playing Guitar Hero.
Rock as hard as they’d like, Heart’s sisters couldn’t escape becoming sex symbols. When a bare-shouldered ad showed up in Rolling Stone suggesting they were lesbian lovers, the infuriated sisters dropped their label. The fallout put a damper on the next record, but the controversy — spurred by what Ann Wilson called a “record label geek” who inquired about her “lover” — prompted an enraged Wilson to write this 1977 song.
Love fueled the band in its early years. Nancy dated guitarist Roger Fisher, and Ann was head over heels for his brother Mike, who inspired “Magic Man” and became the band’s co-producer. But the relationships broke down, and the band’s lineup reshuffled for the first, and not the last, time. Ann’s hellfire on 1984’s “If Looks Could Kill” might as well be sung directly at Mike Fisher. Meanwhile, Nancy fell in love with the band’s drummer.
After several down years, Heart surged back into the rock pantheon with a new label and bigger hair. They rode their glam power-ballad all the way to their first No. 1 hit in 1986. But their sexuality resurfaced as a marketing tool and the “commercial world” swallowed them up and spit them out when Ann Wilson’s weight became a detractor heading into the 1990s.
The Wilsons refocused on music. After another lineup shuffle, the sisters toyed with a side project called The Lovemongers, but eventually got the band back together. Probably the crown atop Heart’s achievements in recent years was their performance of Led Zeppelin’s classic at the Kennedy Center Honors, signaling that Heart was still ticking. The performance brought Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant to tears.
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