What woman out there does not remember belting out the lyrics of the song “Alone” somewhere at some time in their lives and for some reason? I know I did, a lot. From “Magic Man” to “These Dreams” to all of those rock and roll tunes that Heart singer Ann Wilson belted out over the span of the band’s career, rivaling anyone in rock with their passionate, gut wrenching, heart pumping sound.
With a voice that is par-excellence, Ann Wilson turned 60 this past weekend. She paved the way for female rockers to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any male musician on the scene. Yet Ann and Nancy Wilson always stayed in their truth as females in exile from the stereotypical female genre of the fallen angel. Heart brought you into their songs, telling you they understand, letting you feel the lyrics like “try to understand, he’s a magic man.” You want to know who he is. You want to know why she needs him.
Ann Wilson evoked feelings and emotions when she sang, hitting ranges in her vocals that ranged as high and low, and their timeless lyrics which are so full of rich passion, pleasure and pain.
I remember one interview I did with Ann in 1991 where we sat down as a couple of friends talking about life. She asked if she could tell me something in confidence, off the record. She was beaming as she told me she was about to adopt her first son. It was real; she was a woman who felt as passionate about life as she did about her music. And this is, as promised, actually the first time I’ve ever put that confidence in print.
Of course, there is always a dark side. Spoken about not fitting into the shallow world of physical model-like body, Ann encountered the feelings that women face head on in life. We related.
In concert her voice was as clear and strong as it is presented on the records. Something that can often be a disappointment when catching a show and quickly realize that the live sound is nothing like the over-produced, ten-times layered album, and you walk away with the feeling you’ve just heard a bad cover band singing your favorite band’s music.
Often cited as the female Led Zeppelin, Heart had two hit singles in 1976, “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” on their “Dreamboat Annie” release, and their single “Heartless” in 1978 with the double-Platinum album, “Dog and Butterfly.”
But it was in the ’80s that Heart broke onto the mainstream rock charts with their first venture on Capitol Records, simply titled “Heart.” Landing at the #1 spot in 1985, selling more than 5 million copies to date on the strength of hits “What About Love?” “These Dreams,” “Never,” and “Nothin’ at All,” this band of sisters became the musical force that brought them the rock status they so rightly sought.
Their release that followed, “Bad Animals” in 1987 is the one that brought us the power ballad, “Alone,” as well as “Who Will You Run To?” which ended up being the apex of their career.
With a new release Heart album loosely slated to come out later this year, Ann and Nancy Wilson will surely be a very welcomed breath of fresh air in the world of music. Happy Birthday Ann. From all of us who felt your lyrics for the last two-plus decades. We grew up living the lyrics of your songs and look forward to a couple of more decades of new music to come.
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