Sis­ter act rocks – and bat­tles – on

Fair­fax Me­dia’s Vicki An­der­son talks to pi­o­neer­ing rock chick, Ann Wil­son, of ’70s band Heart.

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

The first women to front a hard rock band, Ann and Nancy Wil­son, of 1970s band Heart, were pi­o­neers. How did they break into amale-dom­i­nated in­dus­try? ‘‘You can­not lead with your vag­ina,’’ says Ann Wil­son down the phone from Seat­tle. ‘‘You have to lead with your soul.’’

When Heart stormed the charts in the 1970s, the Wil­son sis­ters led the band, wrote the songs and played the in­stru­ments too.

‘‘It was a strug­gle just to be taken se­ri­ously. Back then women were disco di­vas or they were more cheesecake, kind of like it is again now.’’

She de­scribes fight­ing to be heard as an artist as a strug­gle.

‘‘We had to push all the way and turn a deaf ear to a lot of sleazy com­ments. When we did that, then even­tu­ally peo­ple saw that we were dif­fer­ent.’’

With songs like Crazy On You, Magic Man, Bar­racuda, Straight On and more, the sis­ters and their band Heart have sold more than 35 mil­lion al­bums and sold out are­nas world­wide.

Bar­racuda was writ­ten, Wil­son says, af­ter a ‘‘sleazy’’ mo­ment back­stage.

‘‘It was writ­ten out of angst. Some sleaze­bag guy said some­thing sleazy to me, and it re­ally made me an­gry and of­fended me. My re­ac­tion was to go write the words to Bar­racuda.’’

In­ducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, the sis­ters are head­ing to New Zealand over summer for a con­cert tour, per­form­ing with For­eigner and Three Dog Night in Queen­stown.

‘‘We are go­ing to be rock­ing out,’’ Wil­son says. ‘‘We’ll play some of the old hits and some newer stuff and some sur­pris­ing cov­ers. The whole band is com­ing, my son is com­ing along too.’’ Al­most 35 years af­ter their first big hit, the Wil­son sis­ters

For­eigner per­form­ing in Ber­lin ear­lier this year, will be in Queen­stown in Jan­uary. re­turned to the Bill­board Top 10 in 2010 with Heart’s Red Vel­vet Car al­bum.

In 2012, the sis­ters were asked to per­form Stair­way to Heaven as the finale to the Kennedy Cen­tre Hon­ours trib­ute to Led Zep­pelin.

Their per­for­mance vis­i­bly moved Led Zep­pelin’s Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.

Wil­son de­scribes it as a ‘‘life mo­ment’’.

You’ll have heard Wil­son’s voice at the movies, too, with her songs Al­most Par­adise from Foot­loose, Sur­ren­der to Me from Tequila Sun­rise and Best Man in the World from Gold­en­child.

Her sis­ter Nancy com­posed and per­formed the scores to films, in­clud­ing the award-win­ning Jerry Maguire and Al­most Fa­mous.

What ad­vice would she of­fer women new to the in­dus­try?

‘‘Don’t con­fuse your rear end with your tal­ent,’’ Wil­son says. ‘‘Just re­ally work on be­ing your best artis­tic self.

‘‘A lot of young women don’t yet un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween sex­u­al­ity and fem­i­nism. They think that by go­ing out there and be­ing overtly sex­ual in place of do­ing some­thing artis­tic, then they are show­ing their fem­i­nist power.’’

Right now she has a note­book full of songs and is ‘‘cast­ing her eye’’ around for a pro­ducer.

She has al­ways writ­ten the same way. She starts with the lyrics and then goes in for the mu­sic.

‘‘That’s harder for me. I end up tak­ing my lyrics to Nancy, she’s re­ally the mu­si­cal half of the song­writ­ing team.’’

She and her sis­ter ex­pe­ri­enced pres­sure to change their ap­pear­ance in the 1970s and, over 40 years later, she doesn’t be­lieve much has changed for women in the in­dus­try.

‘‘Back at the begin­ning peo­ple wanted us to be dif­fer­ent to the way we were, dress in a re­ally sexy way, to be as sexy as pos­si­ble. That was way more im­por­tant than the lyrics or the chords or our per­for­mance.’’

Photo: REUTERS

Hard rock­ers: Nancy (left) and Ann Wil­son of Heart per­form at the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in­duc­tion cer­e­mony in Los An­ge­les.

Also per­form­ing:

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