Sister act rocks – and battles – on
Fairfax Media’s Vicki Anderson talks to pioneering rock chick, Ann Wilson, of ’70s band Heart.
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.’’
Hard rockers: Nancy (left) and Ann Wilson of Heart perform at the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Los Angeles.