Heart is an American rock band which first found success in Canada and later in the United States and worldwide. Over the group's four-decade history, the band has had three primary lineups, with the constant members being sisters lead singer Ann Wilson and guitarist Nancy Wilson. Heart rose to fame in the mid-1970s with music influenced by hard rock and folk music. Their popularity declined in the early 1980s, but the band enjoyed a comeback starting in 1985 and experienced even greater success with AOR hits and hard rock ballads into the 1990s. With Jupiter's Darling (2004), Red Velvet Car (2010), and Fanatic (2012), Heart made a return to their hard rock and acoustic folk roots.
To date, Heart has sold over 30 million records worldwide, including over 22 million in album sales in the U.S. The group was ranked number 57 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock". With Top 10 albums on the Billboard Album Chart in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s, Heart is among the most commercially enduring hard rock bands in history. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
In 1967 (some sources state 1963), bassist Steve Fossen formed The Army along with Roger Fisher on guitar, Don Wilhelm on guitar, keyboards and lead vocals, and Ray Schaefer on drums. They played for several years in and around the Bothell, Washington area (northeast of Seattle). They frequently played Bothell High School, Inglemoor High School and Shorecrest High School, as well as many taverns and club venues. They frequented the club "Parker's" on Aurora Avenue in north Seattle during the 1970s when it was known as the "Aquarius Tavern". In 1969 the band went through line-up changes (Gary Ziegelman on lead vocals, Roger on guitar, Steve on bass, James Cirrello on guitar, Ron Rudge on drums, Ken Hansen on percussion, and Debi Cuidon on vocals) and a new name, White Heart (from Tales from the White Hart, a collection of short stories by Arthur C. Clarke). For a brief time in 1970 this line-up shortened its name to Heart and dropped "White"; however, the band went through more personnel changes. In 1971, Heart consisted of Steve Fossen, Roger Fisher, David Belzer (keys) and Jeff Johnson (drums). After Ann Wilson joined (in 1970 or 1972), the band was renamed Hocus Pocus. Her sister Nancy joined in 1974. Mike Fisher, Roger's brother, was set to be drafted. Nancy Wilson has stated that when he did not report for duty, his home was raided, but he slipped out a rear window, escaped to Canada and became a Vietnam War "draft dodger".
One day in 1972 (or 1971), Mike crossed the border to visit family and, by chance, met Ann at a Hocus Pocus (or White Heart) show. According to Nancy, that meeting was "when she and Michael fell in love" and Ann decided to follow Mike back to Canada. Steve Fossen finished his college education before he also decided to move to Canada in late 1972, and Roger followed in late 1972 / early 1973. Along with Mike and Ann, the band Heart was officially formed. Nancy joined in 1974, and soon after became involved with Roger.
Commercial breakthrough (1975–76)
The group played numerous shows around their new home in Vancouver, and they recorded a demo tape with the assistance of producer Mike Flicker and session-guitarist and keyboard player, Howard Leese. Hannah and Johnstone had left by this time, and soon after Leese became a full-time member. Flicker produced the band's first five albums. This team recorded the debut album, Dreamboat Annie, at Can-Base Studios in Vancouver (later known as Mushroom Studios). Mike DeRosier eventually joined Heart as full-time drummer. Some of the same Canadian investors which backed the studio also backed a separate company Mushroom Records, which was managed by Shelly Siegel. Drummers Duris Maxwell, Dave Wilson, Kat Hendrikse and Michael Derosier were among those who also played on the sessions for the album. The album was picked up by Siegel and sold 30,000 copies in Canada in its first few months. Siegel soon released the album in the US, where, helped by two hit singles in 1976, ("Crazy on You" and "Magic Man", which reached numbers thirty-five and nine respectively on the Billboard Hot 100), it reached number seven in the Billboard 200. It eventually sold over one million copies.
Mainstream success (1977–81)
In 1977 Mushroom 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". Heart broke its contract with Mushroom and signed a contract with CBS subsidiary Portrait Records, resulting in a prolonged legal battle with Siegel. Mushroom released the partly completed Magazine in early 1977, just before Portrait released Little Queen. Both sides attempted to prevent the other from releasing any Heart music. A Seattle court forced Mushroom to recall the album so that Heart could remix tracks and add new vocals, and the album was re-released in 1978. It peaked at number 17 in the US, generating the single "Heartless", which reached number 24 in the chart, and eventually achieved platinum status.
Little Queen, with the hit "Barracuda" (number 11, 1977), became Heart's second million-seller. Ann and Nancy appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone on July 28, 1977 (issue No. 244). Heart performed at the first Texxas Jam on July 4 weekend in 1978 in Dallas, Texas, at the Cotton Bowl in front of 100,000 people, along with Aerosmith, Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Journey, Frank Marino, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Head East, and Walter Egan.
In late 1978, the double-platinum Dog and Butterfly peaked at 17 on the Billboard 200 and produced top 30 hits with its title song and "Straight On". In 1979 the Wilson-Fisher liaisons ended. Roger Fisher was voted out of the band by the other members and Mike also departed within a month. Nancy Wilson and longtime guitarist Howard Leese filled in the guitar void, and childhood friend Sue Ennis helped with song collaborations. Thom Jurek argues that the absence of Fisher's guitar work was evident on the band's subsequent albums.
Commercial decline (1982–84)
Heart released Bebe le Strange in 1980. It became the band's third top ten album, peaking at number five, and yielded the Top 40 hit "Even It Up". The band embarked on a 77-city tour to promote the album. By the end of the year, the band scored their highest charted single at the time; a cover of the ballad "Tell It Like It Is", which peaked at number eight, but the album was the first to only achieve gold status. In November 1980, the double album Greatest Hits/Live was released and reached number 12 on the US chart, eventually achieving double platinum status. The two-disc set actually featured studio versions of most of Heart's singles to date, plus a couple of new studio tracks and six live tracks, amongst which were covers of "Unchained Melody", Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" and The Beatles' "I'm Down". But with a total of only two hit singles in 1980 (five singles were actually released) and a hiatus of almost two years to their next studio album, sales following this greatest hits package were weaker than previous efforts.
Their next album Private Audition (1982), was the first not produced by Mike Flicker. Initially the band turned to Jimmy Iovine, one of the leading producers of the time, who suggested that the material lacked potential hits, but eventually the Wilson sisters produced the album themselves. The track "Perfect Stranger" foreshadowed the power ballads that would dominate the band's mid-1980s sound. At the end of recording Derosier and Fossen were fired from the band. They were replaced by Denny Carmassi on drums and Mark Andes on bass for Passionworks (1983), while at the record company's insistence the band turned to established producer Keith Olsen. Both Private Audition and Passionworks had relatively poor sales, failing to reach gold status. Despite the albums' poor sales, the single "How Can I Refuse" was a success reaching number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. In 1984 Ann Wilson recorded a duet, with Mike Reno of hard rock band Loverboy, the pop ballad "Almost Paradise", which was featured on the soundtrack of the movie Footloose. The song reached number seven on the US pop chart, and strongly influenced the band to use other songwriters and to change their sound.
The band moved to Capitol Records and their first album for their new label was simply titled Heart (1985). The album reached number one, sold five million copies and launched four Top-10 hits: "What About Love" (number 10, 1985), "Never" (number 4, 1985), "These Dreams" (number 1, 1986) and "Nothin' at All" (number 10, 1986). A fifth single, "If Looks Could Kill" also charted, giving the band five hit singles from the same album for the first time. Nancy Wilson made cameo appearances in the films Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and The Wild Life (1984), both written by journalist, screenwriter and director Cameron Crowe, who she married in June 1986.
Heart's next album, Bad Animals (1987), named after reactions to the band when they entered an upmarket Memphis hotel, continued the move away from the band's folk and acoustic leanings towards a glossier arena rock sound. It contained the singles hits "Who Will You Run To" (1987), which reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, "There's the Girl" (1987), which reached number 12, "I Want You So Bad" (1988), which reached number 47, and "Alone" (1987), which reached number one. Bad Animals also became the band's first top 10 album success in the UK, peaking at number seven on the UK Album Chart.
In 1990 Brigade became the band's sixth multi-platinum LP and added three more Top 25 Billboard Hot 100 hits: "Stranded" and "I Didn't Want to Need You", which reached numbers 12 and 24 respectively; "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You" reached number two, but created controversy when it was argued that its story line might endanger women by encouraging them to pick up hitch-hikers. Three other album cuts, "Secret", "Wild Child" and "Tall, Dark Handsome Stranger" were Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart hits. Brigade was the band's highest charting album in the UK, reaching number three.
Hiatus and Lovemongers (1991–2001)
Following the 1990 tour, Heart released their first complete live album in the autumn of 1991. Rock the House Live! largely featured tracks from the Brigade album, rather than their more familiar hits. The Wilson sisters then put together an informal acoustic group called The Lovemongers with Sue Ennis and Frank Cox. Their first show was a Red Cross benefit for troops in Seattle. A four-song EP, that included a live version of Led Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore" and an updated version of the Heart standard "Crazy On You", came out in late 1992.
Heart returned in 1993 with Desire Walks On, on which bass player Andes was replaced with Fernando Saunders. The album peaked at #48 on the Billboard 200 and the singles "The Woman in Me" and "Black On Black II" reached number 24 and 4 on the Adult Contemporary and Mainstream Rock charts respectively, while "Will You Be There (In the Morning)" reached 39 in the Billboard Hot 100. An interactive CD-ROM, Heart: 20 Years of Rock & Roll, with five hours of audio footage, was released in 1994. Their next album, The Road Home (1995), offered live acoustic versions of the group's best-known songs and was produced by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones.
In 1995 Nancy decided to take a break from music to concentrate on raising a family. Ann toured that year with a band that was alternately called The Ann Wilson Band or Ann Wilson & the Ricola Brothers. This lineup included Leese, Scott Olson (guitars), Jon Bayless (bass), and Scott Adams (sax). Additionally, Lovemongers members Ben Smith (drums) and Frank Cox (guitars, keyboards, percussion) performed in this lineup. They were joined by Nancy for at least one show at The Joint in Paradise, Nevada on October 16, 1995, which was billed as a Heart show and later broadcast by the Westwood One Superstars in Concert series. A videotape of the show was also shown on VH1.
The Lovemongers released a full-length album titled Whirlygig in 1997, and a collection of mostly self-penned Christmas songs titled Here is Christmas in 1998. This was re-released as a Heart album with the title Heart Presents a Lovemongers' Christmas in 2001. In 1998, the band maintained its profile by being the subject of an episode of VH1's Behind the Music. The band released a Greatest Hits boxed set covering their early work (a second volume focusing on the later part of their career followed in 2000). Also in 1998, Ann toured without Nancy, billed as "Ann Wilson and Heart". The lineup was the same as it had been in 1995, but without Scott Adams. This was long term band member Leese's last tour with Heart; he left the band later in the year. Nancy kept busy scoring her husband's movies Jerry Maguire (1996), Almost Famous (2000),Vanilla Sky (2001) and Elizabethtown (2005). In 1999 Nancy released a solo album, Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop. Also in 1999, Nancy and Ann undertook their first tour without a backing band. In 2001 Ann participated in the A Walk Down Abbey Road: A Tribute to the Beatles tour, which also featured Todd Rundgren, John Entwistle of the Who and Alan Parsons. The sisters also appeared at benefits and special events, including the tribute to Brian Wilson at New York's Radio City Music Hall in March 2001.
In 2002, Ann and Nancy returned to the road with a brand-new Heart lineup that included Scott Olson, Ben Smith, Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez, and keyboardist Tom Kellock. In 2003, Heart released a DVD of their last stop in the tour as Alive in Seattle. Also in 2003, Gilby Clarke (ex-Guns N' Roses) and Darian Sahanaja replaced Olson and Kellock for an American tour. These two new men didn't stay very long and were succeeded in 2004 by Craig Bartok and Debbie Shair. (Sahanaja's schedule became very busy after he joined Brian Wilson's touring band, but he returned to play with Heart in 2007 for their "Dreamboat Annie Live" show.)
In 2004, with the new lineup, Heart released Jupiter's Darling, their first studio album since 1993. It featured a variety of songs that included a return to Heart's original hard rock sound, as well as a blend of vintage pop and new textures. Stand-out tracks included the singles "The Perfect Goodbye", "Oldest Story in the World" (number 22 Billboard Rock Airplay, 2004) and "Lost Angel". In 2005 the Wilsons appeared on the CMT Music Awards as a special guest of country singer Gretchen Wilson (no relation) and performed the Heart classic, "Crazy on You", with Gretchen. Also in 2005 Heart appeared in the finale episode of the second season of The L Word on Showtime (broadcast on May 15, 2005), performing "Crazy on You".
Heart performed with Gretchen Wilson on VH-1's March 10, 2006 tribute to the band, "Decades Rock Live". The special also featured Alice in Chains, Phil Anselmo, Dave Navarro, Rufus Wainwright, and Carrie Underwood. Later in the year, bass player Inez left Heart to re-join the reformed Alice in Chains. Ric Markmann then became Heart's new bassist.
Heart was honored at the second annual VH1 Rock Honors (May 24, 2007), and also performed along with Ozzy Osbourne, Genesis and ZZ Top. Gretchen Wilson and Alice in Chains honored the group by performing "Barracuda". This, along with the inclusion of "Crazy on You" in Guitar Hero II, "Barracuda" in the Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, and Guitar Hero: Smash Hits video game, renewed interest in Heart once again.
In September 2007, Ann Wilson released her first solo album, Hope & Glory, which, beside her sister Nancy, featured Elton John, Alison Krauss, k.d. lang, Wynonna Judd, Gretchen Wilson, Rufus Wainwright, Shawn Colvin, and Deana Carter.
Heart appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on January 25, 2008 for Ellen's birthday show, and performed "Barracuda." Ellen played an intro to "Barracuda" on Guitar Hero in front of the audience before announcing Heart. On April 9, 2008, the band appeared on Idol Gives Back with Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson, who sang "Barracuda" in harmony with Ann. In mid-2008, Heart undertook a U.S. tour with Journey and Cheap Trick. On May 31, 2008, Heart performed at the Artist for the Arts Foundation benefit at Barnum Hall, Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica, CA. Performing live, alongside Jackson Browne (Something Fine), Venice (Crazy on You) and over 70 members of the Santa Monica High School (SaMoHi) Orchestra and Girls Choir (Bohemian Rhapsody), the benefit helped to provide funds for the continuation of Music Education in public schools. The event was filmed and recorded by Touring Video and Post by On the WAVE Productions. The video was produced by Harry Rabin of OTW and can be seen on the AFTA Foundation website.
In July 2009, Heart were special guests on 15 dates of Journey's summer arena tour. They played at a number of venues, including Louisville's Freedom Hall, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Sovereign Center, Reno Events Center, and Taco Bell Arena. Heart also headlined a series of shows, with The Bangles opening for them. Heart also headlined at the Verizon Wireless American Music Festival Labor Day 2009. They also wrote two songs ("Mine," "Civilian") with American female pop rock duo 78violet for their upcoming self-titled studio album.
Return to the Top 10 (2010-2011)
A new studio album, Red Velvet Car was released in 2010. It marked a stylistic return to Heart's melodic hard rock and folk sound of their early albums, and peaked at number 10 on the Billboard 200, becoming the group's first top 10 album in 20 years. The album also reached number three on Billboard's Rock Album Chart. Red Velvet Car spawned two singles. "Hey You" peaked at number 26 on Billboard's AC chart, while "WTF" peaked at number 19 on Billboard's Top Selling Singles chart. The album release was accompanied by a North American tour, which commenced in January and ran until December 2010. On November 4, 2010, it was announced that Heart would do its first cross-Canada tour in thirty years, beginning on January 28, 2011 in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. A live DVD and Blu-ray disc, A Night at Sky Church, recorded before the tour at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, was released in 2011. Ann and Nancy Wilson played as part of the 2010 VH1 Divas Support the Troops, along with acts including Katy Perry, Paramore, performing "Crazy on You" with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
In May 2010 there was a reunion of former male members of the band, including Roger Fisher and Steve Fossen; they performed at the Synergia Northwest concert in Tacoma, Washington.
Strange Euphoria, Fanatic, Kennedy Center Honors (2012 - 2013)
Coming off their latest Top 10 album and cross country tour of Canada, Heart embarked on a 2011 summer tour co-headlining with Def Leppard. Heart released a career spanning box-set titled Strange Euphoria in June 2012 which contains many of their biggest hits, unreleased demos, and rare live cuts. On September 18, 2012, the Wilson sisters released their autobiography, Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll, which was co-written with Charles R. Cross (Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain). On September 25, 2012, Ann & Nancy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contributions to music.
The band released their fourteenth studio album, Fanatic, on October 2, which became the group's 12th Top 25 album (number 24, 2012) and was supported by a North American tour including both the US and Canada. Prior to the release of the album, the band sent two singles to radio stations: "Walkin' Good" to AC radio, and the title track, "Fanatic", to Rock radio. Two other album cuts, "Dear Old America" and "A Million Miles" received moderate airplay on hard rock and classic rock radio.
On December 26, 2012 CBS televised the annual Kennedy Center Honors which recognizes artists for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts. 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 Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) performed a version of Zeppelin's signature tune "Stairway to Heaven" complete with an orchestra and two choirs. Their rendition of "Stairway" earned a standing ovation from the crowd and tears of joy from Robert Plant. The video went viral on Youtube with over 4 million hits in the first five days after the show, and prompted the Kennedy Center to issue a limited edition iTunes single of the performance. Although the single was only available for two weeks, it immediately went to #1 on iTunes Rock Singles chart and hit #20 on Billboards Hot Rock Songs chart.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction (2013)
At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 18, 2013, the original members of Heart (The Wilson Sisters, Howard Leese, Michael DeRosier, Steve Fossen, and Roger Fisher) reunited for the first time in 34 years to play "Crazy on You". In addition, the modern version of Heart joined with fellow Seattlites Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), and Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) to play a version of the classic "Barracuda".
The band was inducted by Chris Cornell.
Heart has sold over 30 million records worldwide, had 20 Top 40 singles, seven Top Ten albums and four Grammy nominations. Heart achieved Top 10 albums on the Billboard charts in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s, with chart singles in each decade. This span of over four decades gives them the longest span of Top 10 albums by a female fronted band.
Heart was ranked number 57 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock", and Ann and Nancy Wilson ranked number 40 on VH1's "100 Greatest women in rock and roll". In 2009 the Wilson sisters were awarded ASCAP's Founders Award in recognition of their songwriting career. In 2011, Heart earned their first nomination for induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the 2012 class, but were ultimately not picked. After a second nomination, the band were announced as inductees to the 2013 class on December 11, 2012. Their Hall of Fame page described the Wilson sisters as the first women to front a hard rock band, and "pioneers ... that inspired women to pick up an electric guitar or start a band". Jake Brown described the band as beginning "a revolution for women in music ... breaking genre barriers and garnering critical acclaim".
In addition to their own recording careers, the Wilson sisters have played a role on the Seattle music scene. Among the artists that have used their Bad Animals Studio are Neil Young, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
- Current members
- Ann Wilson – vocals, flute, guitar, keyboards, percussion, violin, autoharp (1972–present)
- Nancy Wilson – vocals, rhythm guitar, mandolin, keyboards, synthesizers, harmonica (1974–1995, 2002–present)
- Ben Smith – drums (1995–present)
- Craig Bartock – lead guitar (2004–present)
- Debbie Shair – keyboards, synthesizers (2004–present)
- Dan Rothchild – bass guitar (2012–present)
- Former members
- Dreamboat Annie (1976)
- Magazine (First release:1977 Recall & Re-release:1978)
- Little Queen (1977)
- Dog and Butterfly (1978)
- Bebe le Strange (1980)
- Private Audition (1982)
- Passionworks (1983)
- Heart (1985)
- Bad Animals (1987)
- Brigade (1990)
- Desire Walks On (1993)
- Jupiters Darling (2004)
- Red Velvet Car (2010)
- Fanatic (2012)
References and notes
- Jake Brown, Heart: In the Studio, Ecw Press (June 1, 2008), ISBN 1-55022-831-5 (There are many errors in this book including wrong dates and wrong song titles.)
- Dickerson, James L. (2005) Go, Girl, Go! The Women's Revolution in Music, Schirmer Trade Books. ISBN 0-8256-7316-X.
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Image from Discogs