Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson have been the dominant leads of Heart since the act released its debut album in 1976. The Capitol Records full-length “Dreamboat Annie” contained numerous hits, including ‘70s rock staple “Crazy on You,” which was a mix of flower-power doodling and Led Zeppelin-like power.
The song was most notable, however, for introducing the world to the dominant, upper-register vocal howls of Ann Wilson. Over the years Ann became less interested in piercing high notes, and the band became more adept at reaching for the heavens via the softer sounds of the ‘80s power ballad (see “What About Love?").
The Pacific Northwest band endured a hiatus in the ‘90s and regrouped in the 2000s. The 2010 album “Red Velvet Car” saw Heart return to the Top 10 on the U.S. pop charts, becoming the band’s seventh album to reach the Top 10. More than three decades into the group’s career, the album saw the band coming full circle by re-embracing its hard-rock roots. Yet through all of Heart’s stylistic diversions, including an acoustic-based side project dubbed the Lovemongers, the focal point of Heart remained Ann and her younger, guitar-wielding sister Nancy.
It wasn’t always so. Heart’s roots actually can be traced back to the early ‘60s, though the band didn’t adopt the Heart name until the early ‘70s. Lineup changes have dotted the band’s career, but the first incarnation of the band was led by Mike Fisher and his brother Roger (Mike would eventually assume more of a managerial, behind-the-scenes role).
Ann didn’t join until 1970, and complicating the band’s early years was the fact that Ann and Mike soon became entangled in a romance. Nancy would join a few years later and entered into a relationship with Roger. Of course, those who enjoyed their rock ‘n’ roll with a little gossip gravitated toward the band.
Breakups and shifts in the power dynamic of the group followed, but not before the band would release one of its most successful albums. The 1977 effort “Little Queen” brought more of a pop gleam to the band’s sound, but was led by the choppy guitar anthem “Barracuda.”
Ann and Nancy split from the Fisher brothers after the release of 1978’s “Dog & Butterfly.” The band in 1980 wrote “Bebe le Strange,” which represented the newfound personal freedom of Ann and Nancy, as well as all the pent-up anger from the last few years. Ann told The Times in 1980 that the album represented the band at its most bitter.
“We just poured our hostilities and anxieties into the album,” she said. “It shows. It’s a real hard and angry album.”
As the ‘80s progressed, the band’s sound would change drastically. By the time the band released a self-titled effort in 1985, Heart had begun to shy away from its more rock-driven sound and placed a greater emphasis on the big pop ballad. Anyone who attended a prom in the mid-to-late ‘80s no doubt heard “These Dreams.” Yet lineup changes and tabloid drama dogged the band into the end of the decade and the band was on-again/off-again by the early ‘90s.
Heart would re-form in 2002 and began releasing new material. The band even found itself unwitting participants in the 2008 election, when Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin used the band’s “Barracuda.” The sisters emailed a statement to Entertainment Weekly explaining that the song “was written in the late '70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women.”
The sisters have continued to tour and perform together, and in 2012 released the new album “Fanatic.”