The world of rock 'n' roll in the '60s and '70s was a boys' club. Bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were rising to fame, while few women were hitting the charts—until Heart came along.
Fronted by the venerable sister duo of Ann and Nancy Wilson, Heart was a catalyst in opening up the rock genre to women and has recorded some of the most celebrated classic-rock tracks that continue to stand the test of time: from the '70s guitar-riffing of "Barracuda" to the '80s power balladry of "What About Love," Heart's musical legacy is one that spans four decades, with the band being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this spring.
"I've just been allowed to sing and sing and sing and pour my soul out for 40 years, and that's an amazing thing to be acknowledged for: the thing you're most natural at," says Ann Wilson during a call from Seattle, the city where the band's journey began as the Army in 1963.
Four decades in music means the Wilsons have witnessed the industry's game-changing evolution, including the introduction of new technology, which Wilson notes has transformed things from the days when an artist had to actually be good at what they did since there was no such thing as auto-tune or other crutches to lean on. She also notes she's impressed by the increasing number of women in music—not that it means women necessarily have it easier these days.
"A lot of young women will feel that the easiest and most direct route to success will be to just portray themselves sexually, and that's one way ... but it doesn't really give you a chance to show what's inside, that deeper inner core," Wilson says, noting Adele and Tracy Chapman as examples of women who have bucked the trend of portraying an image first, focusing instead on showcasing their songwriting ability. "Don't concentrate on the false eyelashes and the big extensions and super high heels and wearing the little leather teddy. Don't concentrate on that as much as what's inside and what you're going to sing. That's what matters when it comes down to it ... the first thing you have to have deep in your core is you have to have something incredible to sing about, some way your soul wants to reach out and connect."
Despite an ever-changing and fickle industry, Heart has firmly cemented its place in it and is continuing to make music, having recently released its latest album Fanatic, produced alongside Ben Mink. Wilson says she realizes today is the day and age where a song is uploaded to YouTube and that's that, and where people are ostensibly more interested in singles than whole albums that are meant to be played from start to finish, but that's not about to stop the sisters from making an album that stays true to Heart's rock roots.
"We decided that we're going to get back to point one and decided we're going to do whatever the hell we wanted and make it really good. We decided to make a rock 'n' roll album with 10 cuts on it designed in the old way, as if it could have been on a vinyl record and organize the songs so that they played well in a group, so one played into the next really well," Wilson explains, adding that the central theme of this album—one that continues inspiring her—is love. "Love is the highest form of excellent energy that human beings can possibly hope to emit and that's what the world needs now, so a lot of the songs have to do with love in its many forms. It's just a very simple, old idea, but it's a good one."
Mon, Mar 11 (7:30 pm)
With Simon Townshend
Jubilee Auditorium, sold out