I wanted to review Heart’s autobiography Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll because it occurred to me that I know next to nothing about Ann and Nancy Wilson. Heart’s music is constantly on the radio, they even had a VH1 Behind the Music episode. Yet what I did know was perfunctory: they are sisters and one or maybe it was even both sisters faced rampant rumors about their sexualities. Thus, I turned to Kicking and Dreaming for insight but found a deeper examination of not only the Wilson sisters’ lives, but also the taxing role of female musicians in the music industry and the prevalence of the dominant gendered norms inflicted onto women.
With the assistance of Charles R. Cross, famed biographer of rock ‘n’ roll heavyweights such as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain, Kicking and Dreaming begins with the Wilsons’ childhood and teenage years. Reading much as a diary, Ann and Nancy reveal the events and the individuals who impacted their careers and personal philosophies on both a large and small scale. A particularly engaging narrative is the influence the Beatles bestowed onto Ann’s and Nancy’s lives and Heart’s music. Here Nancy makes it clear that the Beatles provided creative musical influence and that the Wilson sisters “didn’t want to be Beatle girlfriends. We wanted to be Beatles” (44). This was a part where I audibly yelled “YES!” Because usually a women’s romantic and sexual inclinations are more commonly the focus rather than the creative and professional predilections.
This obviously reflects what I knew of the band. Yet early in their lives, the Wilsons identified the marginalized position of women in rock ‘n’ roll and elevated themselves out of these roles. They used their career and success to dynamically reconstructed the gendered nature of music to more fully include those previously marginalized; specifically women.
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