Ann Dustin Wilson (born June 19, 1950) is an American musician, best known as the lead singer, flute player, songwriter, and occasional guitar player of the hard rock band Heart. Regarded as one of the best female vocalists in rock music history, Wilson was listed as one of the "Top Heavy Metal Vocalists of All Time" by Hit Parader magazine in 2006. Wilson has a coloratura mezzo-soprano vocal range.
Wilson was born in San Diego, California. Her father was a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. Due to her father's military career, the Wilson family moved frequently. They lived near American military facilities in Panama and Taiwan before settling in Seattle, Washington, in the early 1960s. In order to maintain a sense of home no matter where in the world they were residing, the Wilsons turned to music. "On Sunday we'd have pancakes and opera," Nancy Wilson recalled. "My dad would be conducting in the living room. We'd turn it way up and rock. There was everything from classical music to Ray Charles, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, bossa nova, and early experimental electronic music."
Her family eventually settled in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle, Washington. Shy because of a stutter, Wilson sought fulfillment in music. In the early 1970s she joined a local band, White Heart, which changed its name to Hocus Pocus, and then in 1974, to Heart.
In 1974, her younger sister Nancy joined Heart, and the band moved to Canada. Heart recorded their first album Dreamboat Annie in Vancouver in 1975; it was released in the United States in 1976, with "Crazy on You" hitting No. 35 on the US charts. In 1977, Little Queen was released, and in 1978, Dog & Butterfly. Wilson also sang the duet "Almost Paradise" with Mike Reno in the movie Footloose from 1984 which reached number seven on Billboard's Hot 100. In 1986 she released a solo single from the movie The Golden Child called "The Best Man in the World" which reached number 61 in the U.S. She also had a hit in 1988–89 called "Surrender to Me" which was a duet with Cheap Trick singer Robin Zander, taken from the film Tequila Sunrise which reached number six in the U.S. singles chart.
In 1992, Wilson appeared on Alice in Chains' EP Sap; she sang on "Brother", "Am I Inside" and "Love Song". In 1993, Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley contributed to vocals on "Ring Them Bells," a Bob Dylan cover from Heart's album Desire Walks On. In addition, Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez and touring guitarist Scott Olson appeared on Heart's 2003 release Alive in Seattle.
The Wilson sisters started a recording studio, Bad Animals, in Seattle in the mid-1990s. They formed a side band, The Lovemongers, which performed "The Battle of Evermore" on the 1992 soundtrack to the Cameron Crowe (Nancy's then husband) movie Singles, and later released a four-song EP. The Lovemongers' debut album Whirlygig was released in 1997.
In 2006, Wilson began recording her first solo album, Hope & Glory, produced by Ben Mink, and released by the Rounder (Zoe) Music Group on September 11, 2007. That same year, she and sister, Nancy, were on stage for a series of concerts in Las Vegas. Hope & Glory features guest appearances from Elton John, k.d. lang, Alison Krauss, Gretchen Wilson, Shawn Colvin, Rufus Wainwright, Wynonna Judd and Deana Carter. Nancy also contributed. Three singles were released from the project, "Little Problems, Little Lies", "Isolation" and "Immigrant Song".
The Hope & Glory version of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" is available on Wilson's official MySpace page, and charted as "the No. 9 most podcasted song of 2007" on the PMC Top10's annual countdown.
Wilson joined producer Alan Parsons in the 2001 live tribute tour to Beatles music called A Walk Down Abbey Road.
On November 22, 2012, Wilson sang an original arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner", accompanied by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, at the beginning of the Thanksgiving Day football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Composer Gary Fry created the arrangement specifically for its premiere performance by Wilson and the DSO.
During the 1970s, Wilson was in a relationship with Michael Fisher, the manager of the band, while her younger sister Nancy was involved with lead guitarist Roger Fisher, Michael's younger brother. Both couples co-controlled the band. In 1979, both relationships ended; Ann stated that Michael had fallen in love with another woman and they parted. The song "Magic Man" was written about Michael and contains autobiographical lyrics about the beginning of their relationship.
Wilson adopted her daughter Marie in 1991 and her son Dustin in 1998.
As a child, Wilson was teased for being overweight. She revealed that in the 1970s and into the early 1980s she would starve herself to stay thin. When Heart created a comeback in the mid-1980s, Wilson had gained significant weight. Fearing it would compromise the band's image, record company executives and band members began pressuring her to lose weight. In music videos, camera angles and clothes were often used to minimize her size, and more focus was put on her sister Nancy. Ann stated she began suffering from stress-related panic attacks due to the negative publicity surrounding her obesity. She underwent a weight-loss surgery called "adjustable gastric band" in January 2002 after what she calls "a lifelong battle" with her weight.
In the band's 2012 autobiography, Wilson revealed her past struggles with cocaine and alcoholism. Wilson stated she has been sober since 2009.
- Official Ann Wilson MySpace page
- Ann Wilson at the Internet Movie Database
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Image from Discogs