Heart is an American rock band that first found success in Canada and later in the United States and worldwide. Over the group's four-decade history, it has had three primary lineups, with the constant center of the group since 1973 being sisters Ann Wilson (lead singer) and Nancy Wilson (guitarist). Heart rose to fame in the mid-1970s with music influenced by hard rock and heavy metal, as well as folk music. Their popularity declined in the early 1980s, but the band enjoyed a comeback starting in 1985 and experienced even greater success with album-oriented rock hits and hard-rock ballads into the 1990s. With Jupiters Darling (2004), Red Velvet Car (2010), Fanatic (2012), and Beautiful Broken (2016) Heart made a return to its hard rock and acoustic folk roots.
To date, Heart has sold over 35 million records worldwide, including over 22.5 million in album sales in the U.S. The group was ranked number 57 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock". With Top 10 albums on the Billboard Album Chart in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s, Heart is among the most commercially enduring hard rock bands in history. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
Since 2002, the band has had six members.
In 1967, bassist Steve Fossen formed a band, The Army, along with Roger Fisher on guitar, Don Wilhelm on guitar, keyboards and lead vocals, and Ray Schaefer on drums. They played for several years in and around the Bothell, Washington area (northeast of Seattle). They frequently played Bothell High School, Inglemoor High School and Shorecrest High School, as well as many taverns and club venues. In 1969 the band went through line-up changes (Gary Ziegelman (former lead singer of Buffalo Clancy) on lead vocals, Roger on guitar, Steve on bass, James Cirrello on guitar, Ron Rudge on drums, Ken Hansen on percussion, and a new name, White Heart. The name White Heart came from a discussion Roger Fisher's brother Mike Fisher had with Michael Munro, who had come up with the name White Hart (without the "e", a reference to Arthur C. Clarke's Tales from the White Hart) for a band with Toby Cyr on lead guitar. Fisher asked and received permission to use the name for The Army, added the "e", and The Army became White Heart. For a brief time in 1970 this line-up shortened its name to Heart and dropped "White"; however, the band went through more personnel changes. In 1971, Heart consisted of Steve Fossen, Roger Fisher, David Belzer (keys) and Jeff Johnson (drums). After Ann Wilson joined (in 1970 or 1972), the band was renamed Hocus Pocus.
Mike Fisher, Roger's brother, was set to be drafted into the military. Nancy Wilson has stated that when he did not report for duty, his home was raided, but he slipped out a rear window, escaped to Canada and became a Vietnam War "draft dodger".
One day in 1972 (or 1971), Mike crossed the border to visit family and, by chance, met Ann at a Hocus Pocus (or White Heart) show. According to Nancy, that meeting was "when she and Michael fell in love" and Ann decided to follow Mike back to Canada. Steve Fossen finished his college education before he also decided to move to Canada in late 1972, and Roger followed in late 1972/early 1973. Along with Mike and Ann, the band Heart was officially formed. Her sister Nancy Wilson joined in 1974, and soon after became romantically involved with Roger, who once said that the Heart Partnership is what he called the two romantically involved couples: himself with Nancy Wilson, and his brother Mike Fisher with Ann Wilson.
The group played numerous shows around their new home in Vancouver, and they recorded a demo tape with the assistance of producer Mike Flicker and session-guitarist and keyboard player, Howard Leese. Hannah and Johnstone had left by this time, and soon after Leese became a full-time member. Flicker produced the band's first five albums. This team recorded the debut album, Dreamboat Annie, at Can-Base Studios in Vancouver (later known as Mushroom Studios). Mike Derosier eventually joined Heart as full-time drummer. Some of the same Canadian investors who had backed the studio also backed a separate company Mushroom Records, which was managed by Shelly Siegel. Drummers Duris Maxwell, Dave Wilson, Kat Hendrikse, Michael Derosier, and Bassist Brian Newcombe were among those who also played on the sessions for the album. The album was picked up by Siegel and sold 30,000 copies in Canada in its first few months. Siegel soon released the album in the US, where, helped by two hit singles in 1976 ("Crazy on You" and "Magic Man", which reached numbers thirty-five and nine respectively on the Billboard Hot 100), it reached number seven in the Billboard 200. It eventually sold over one million copies.
In 1977 Mushroom ran a full-page advertisement in Rolling Stone magazine showing the bare-shouldered Wilson sisters (as on the Dreamboat Annie album cover) with the suggestive caption, "It was only our first time!". When a reporter suggested, backstage after a live appearance, that the sisters were sex partners, the infuriated Ann returned to her hotel room and began writing the lyrics to "Barracuda". Heart broke its contract with Mushroom and signed a contract with CBS subsidiary Portrait Records, resulting in a prolonged legal battle with Siegel. Mushroom released the partly completed Magazine in early 1977, just before Portrait released Little Queen. Both sides attempted to prevent the other from releasing any Heart music. A Seattle court forced Mushroom to recall the album so that Heart could remix tracks and add new vocals, and the album was re-released in 1978. It peaked at No. 17 in the US, generating the single "Heartless", which reached No. 24 in the chart, and eventually achieved platinum status.
Little Queen, with the hit "Barracuda" (No. 11, 1977), became Heart's second million-seller. Ann and Nancy appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone on July 28, 1977 (issue No. 244). Heart performed at the first Texxas Jam on July 4 weekend in 1978 in Dallas, Texas, at the Cotton Bowl in front of 100,000 people, along with Aerosmith, Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Journey, Frank Marino, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Head East, and Walter Egan.
In late 1978, the double-platinum Dog and Butterfly peaked at 17 on the Billboard 200 and produced top 30 hits with its title song and "Straight On" which hit number 15. In 1979 the Wilson-Fisher liaisons ended. Roger Fisher was voted out of the band by the other members and Mike also departed within a month. Nancy Wilson and longtime guitarist Howard Leese filled in the guitar void, and childhood friend Sue Ennis helped with song collaborations.
Heart released Bebe le Strange in 1980. It became the band's third top ten album, peaking at number five, and yielded the Top 40 hit "Even It Up". The band embarked on a 77-city tour to promote the album. By the end of the year, the band scored their highest charted single at the time; a version of the ballad "Tell It Like It Is", which peaked at number eight. In November 1980, the double album Greatest Hits/Live was released and reached number twelve on the US chart, eventually achieving double platinum status. The two-disc set featured studio versions of most of Heart's singles to date, plus a couple of new studio tracks and six live tracks, amongst which were versions of "Unchained Melody", Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" and The Beatles' "I'm Down". But with a total of only two hit singles in 1980 (five singles were actually released) and a hiatus of almost two years to their next studio album, sales following this greatest hits package were weaker than previous efforts.
Their next album Private Audition (1982), was the first not produced by Mike Flicker. Initially the band turned to Jimmy Iovine, one of the leading producers of the time, who suggested that the material lacked potential hits, but eventually the Wilson sisters produced the album themselves. The track "Perfect Stranger" foreshadowed the power ballads that would dominate the band's mid-1980s sound. At the end of recording Derosier and Fossen were fired from the band. They were replaced by Denny Carmassi on drums and Mark Andes on bass for Passionworks (1983), while at the record company's insistence the band turned to established producer Keith Olsen. Both Private Audition and Passionworks had relatively poor sales, failing to reach gold status. Despite the albums' poor sales, the single "How Can I Refuse" was a success reaching number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. In 1984 Ann Wilson recorded a duet, with Mike Reno of hard rock band Loverboy, the pop ballad "Almost Paradise", which was featured on the soundtrack of the movie Footloose. The song reached number seven on the US pop chart, and strongly influenced the band to use other songwriters and to change their sound. Nancy Wilson made cameo appearances in the films Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and The Wild Life (1984), both written by journalist, screenwriter and director Cameron Crowe, whom she married in June 1986.
The band moved to Capitol Records and their first album for their new label was simply titled Heart (1985). The move to Capitol coincided with a glam metal makeover that included minimizing the acoustic and folk sounds characteristic of their early work. The album reached number one, sold five million copies and launched four Top-10 hits: "What About Love" (No. 10, 1985), "Never" (No. 4, 1985), the chart-topping "These Dreams" (1986) and "Nothin' at All" (No. 10, 1986). A fifth single, "If Looks Could Kill" also charted, giving the band five hit singles from the same album for the first time.
Heart's next album, Bad Animals (1987), named after reactions to the band when they entered an upmarket Memphis hotel, continued the move away from the band's folk and acoustic leanings towards a glossier arena rock sound. It contained the hit singles "Alone" (1987), which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, "Who Will You Run To" (1987), which reached number seven, and "There's the Girl" (1987), which reached number 12. Bad Animals also became the band's first top 10 album success in the UK, peaking at number seven on the UK Album Chart.
In 1990, Brigade became the band's sixth multi-platinum LP and added three more Top 25 Billboard Hot 100 hits: "Stranded" and "I Didn't Want to Need You", which reached numbers 12 and 24 respectively; "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You" reached number two, but created controversy when it was argued that its story line might endanger women by encouraging them to pick up hitch-hikers. Three other album cuts, "Secret", "Wild Child", and "Tall, Dark Handsome Stranger" were Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart hits. Brigade was the band's highest charting album in the UK, reaching No. 3.
Following the 1990 tour, Heart released their first complete live album in the autumn of 1991. Rock the House Live! largely featured tracks from the Brigade album rather than more familiar hits in an effort to capture the harder rock side of the band. The album's single, a version of John Farnham's "You're the Voice" received moderate airplay on rock stations and hit No. 20 on the Mainstream Rock chart. The Wilson sisters then put together an informal acoustic group called The Lovemongers with Sue Ennis and Frank Cox. Their first show was a Red Cross benefit for troops in Seattle. A four-song EP, that included a live version of Led Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore" and an updated version of the Heart standard "Crazy On You", came out in late 1992. Their cover of "The Battle of Evermore" also appeared on the original soundtrack for the 1992 film Singles.
Heart returned in 1993 with Desire Walks On, on which bass player Andes was replaced with Fernando Saunders. The album peaked at No. 48 on the Billboard 200, eventually being certified Gold. The lead track "Black on Black II" was an AOR (Album Oriented Rock) hit peaking at No. 4 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, while the single "Will You Be There (In the Morning)" was a moderate pop hit reaching No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100. A third single, "The Woman In Me" hit No. 24 on the Adult Contemporary chart but missed the Hot 100. An interactive CD-ROM, Heart: 20 Years of Rock & Roll, with five hours of audio footage, was released in 1994. Their next album, The Road Home (1995), offered live acoustic versions of the group's best-known songs and was produced by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones.
In 1995 Nancy decided to take a break from music to concentrate on raising a family. Ann toured that year with a band that was alternately called The Ann Wilson Band or Ann Wilson & the Ricola Brothers.
The Lovemongers released a full-length album titled Whirlygig in 1997, and a collection of mostly self-penned Christmas songs titled Here is Christmas in 1998. This was re-released as a Heart album with the title Heart Presents a Lovemongers' Christmas in 2001. In 1998, the band maintained its profile by being the subject of an episode of VH1's Behind the Music. The band released a Greatest Hits boxed set covering their early work (a second volume focusing on the later part of their career followed in 2000). Also in 1998, Ann toured without Nancy, billed as "Ann Wilson and Heart". The lineup was the same as it had been in 1995, but without Scott Adams. This was long term band member Leese's last tour with Heart; he left the band later in the year. Nancy kept busy scoring her husband's movies Jerry Maguire (1996), Almost Famous (2000), Vanilla Sky (2001) and Elizabethtown (2005). In 1999 Nancy released a solo album, Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop. Also in 1999, Nancy and Ann undertook their first tour without a backing band. In 2001 Ann participated in the A Walk Down Abbey Road: A Tribute to the Beatles tour, which also featured Todd Rundgren, John Entwistle of the Who and Alan Parsons. The sisters also appeared at benefits and special events, including the tribute to Brian Wilson at New York's Radio City Music Hall in March 2001.
In 2002, Ann and Nancy returned to the road with a brand-new Heart lineup that included Scott Olson, Ben Smith, Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez, and keyboardist Tom Kellock. In 2003, Heart released a DVD of their last stop in the tour as Alive in Seattle. Also in 2003, Gilby Clarke (ex-Guns N' Roses) and Darian Sahanaja replaced Olson and Kellock for an American tour.
In 2004, with the new lineup, Heart released Jupiters Darling, their first studio album since 1993. It featured a variety of songs that included a return to Heart's original hard rock sound, as well as a blend of vintage pop and new textures. Stand-out tracks included the singles "The Perfect Goodbye", "Oldest Story in the World" (No. 22 Billboard Rock Airplay, 2004) and "Lost Angel". In 2005 the Wilsons appeared on the CMT Music Awards as a special guest of country singer Gretchen Wilson (no relation) and performed the Heart classic, "Crazy on You", with Gretchen.
Heart performed with Gretchen Wilson on VH-1's March 10, 2006 tribute to the band, "Decades Rock Live". The special also featured Alice in Chains, Phil Anselmo, Dave Navarro, Rufus Wainwright, and Carrie Underwood. Later in the year, bass player Inez left Heart to re-join the reformed Alice in Chains.
Heart was honored at the second annual VH1 Rock Honors (May 24, 2007), and also performed along with Ozzy Osbourne, Genesis and ZZ Top. Gretchen Wilson and Alice in Chains honored the group by performing "Barracuda".
In September 2007, Ann Wilson released her first solo album, Hope & Glory, which, beside her sister Nancy, featured Elton John, Alison Krauss, k.d. lang, Wynonna Judd, Gretchen Wilson, Rufus Wainwright, Shawn Colvin, and Deana Carter.
On October 28, 2007, Activision put their song, "Barracuda", in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
On April 9, 2008, the band appeared on Idol Gives Back with Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson, who sang "Barracuda" in harmony with Ann. In mid-2008, Heart undertook a U.S. tour with Journey and Cheap Trick. Performing live, alongside Jackson Browne (Something Fine), Venice (Crazy on You) and over 70 members of the Santa Monica High School (SaMoHi) Orchestra and Girls Choir (Bohemian Rhapsody), the benefit helped to provide funds for the continuation of Music Education in public schools. The event was filmed and recorded by Touring Video and Post by On the WAVE Productions. The video was produced by Harry Rabin of OTW and can be seen on the AFTA Foundation website.
A new studio album, Red Velvet Car was released in 2010. It marked a stylistic return to Heart's melodic hard rock and folk sound of their early albums,. The album peaked at number 10 on the Billboard 200, becoming the group's first top 10 album in 20 years. It also reached number three on Billboard's Rock Album Chart. Red Velvet Car spawned two singles. The folky "Hey You" peaked at number 26 on Billboard's AC chart, while the hard rocker "WTF" peaked at number 19 on Billboard's Top Selling Singles chart. The album release was accompanied by a North American tour, which commenced in January and ran until December 2010. On November 4, 2010, it was announced that Heart would do its first cross-Canada tour in thirty years, beginning on January 28, 2011 in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. A live DVD and Blu-ray disc, A Night at Sky Church, recorded before the tour at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, was released in 2011. Ann and Nancy Wilson played as part of the 2010 VH1 Divas Support the Troops, along with acts including Katy Perry and Paramore; they performed "Crazy on You" with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
In May 2010 there was a reunion of former male members of the band, including Roger Fisher and Steve Fossen; they performed at the Synergia Northwest concert in Tacoma, Washington.
Coming off their latest Top 10 album and cross-country tour of Canada, Heart embarked on a 2011 summer tour co-headlining with Def Leppard. Heart released a career spanning box-set titled Strange Euphoria in June 2012 which contains many of their biggest hits, unreleased demos, and rare live cuts. On September 18, 2012, the Wilson sisters released their autobiography, Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll, which was co-written with Charles R. Cross (Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain). On September 25, 2012, Ann & Nancy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contributions to music.
The band released their fourteenth studio album, Fanatic, on October 2, which became the group's 12th Top 25 album (No. 24, 2012) and was supported by a North American tour including both the US and Canada.
On December 26, 2012 CBS televised the annual Kennedy Center Honors which recognizes artists for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts. Ann and Nancy Wilson were asked to perform at the event in tribute to Led Zeppelin. The Wilson sisters, along with Jason Bonham (son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) performed a version of Zeppelin's signature tune "Stairway to Heaven" complete with an orchestra and two choirs. Their rendition of "Stairway" earned a standing ovation from the crowd and tears of joy from Robert Plant. The video went viral on YouTube with over 4 million hits in the first five days after the show, and prompted the Kennedy Center to issue a limited edition iTunes single of the performance. Although the single was only available for two weeks, it immediately went to No. 1 on iTunes Rock Singles chart and hit No. 20 on Billboards Hot Rock Songs chart.
At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 18, 2013, the original members of Heart (The Wilson Sisters, Howard Leese, Michael Derosier, Steve Fossen, and Roger Fisher) reunited for the first time in 34 years to play "Crazy on You". In addition, the modern version of Heart joined with fellow Seattlites Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), and Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) to play a version of the classic "Barracuda". The band was inducted by Chris Cornell.
In 2014, the band released another live album, Fanatic Live from Caesar's Colosseum which peaked at No. 13 on Billboard's Top Hard Rock Albums chart.
In January 2016, Ann Wilson announced that Heart was working on a new album that should be completed by June, and released sometime in 2016. Wilson indicated that the new album would be different than 2012's Fanatic which focused primarily on the band's heavier rock side, and would "have more contours". The new album would follow a tour of Canada (with Joan Jett) and potentially coincide with an early summer tour of the UK.
The album Beautiful Broken was released on July 8, 2016. The hard rocking title cut featuring Metallica's James Hetfield trading vocals with Ann Wilson was the first single. Beautiful Broken reached number 9 on Billboard's Rock Album Chart and number 30 on Billboard's Top Selling Albums Chart.
On the morning of August 27, 2016, Ann's husband Dean Wetter was arrested for allegedly assaulting Nancy's 16-year-old twin sons after the boys had left the door to his RV open. The alleged incident took place during a Heart performance at the White River Amphitheather in Auburn, Washington the previous night.
Although the band played the remaining 2016 tour dates that were already booked, the Wilson sisters only spoke to one another through third parties for the remainder of the tour. Following the end of the tour in October 2016, the sisters opted to tour with their own side project bands. The pair's relationship was strained by the incident; An April 2017 article in Rolling Stone reported that although they remain on amicable terms, they had not spoken to one another since the 2016 tour ended, and only sporadically contact one another through text messaging.
In January 2017, Nancy formed a new band, Roadcase Royale, with singer Liv Warfield and Heart members Ben Smith (drummer), Dan Rothchild (bass), and Chris Joyner (keyboards). Later that month, Ann announced a solo tour, which includes Heart guitarist Craig Bartock along with some other non-Heart musicians.
In April 2017, Ann described Heart as being on hiatus, although both sisters claim the band has not permanently disbanded.
Heart has sold over 35 million records worldwide, had 20 Top 40 singles, seven Top Ten albums and four Grammy nominations. Heart achieved Top 10 albums on the Billboard charts in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s, with chart singles in each decade. This span of over four decades gives them the longest span of Top 10 albums by a female fronted band.
One of Heart's defining characteristics is their diversity in music styles which has been evident in their chart successes. The band has had singles on Billboard's Hot 100, Mainstream Rock Tracks, and Adult Contemporary charts. Throughout their history, Heart has been labeled as Hard Rock, Folk, Easy Listening, Heavy Metal, and Adult Contemporary, many times demonstrating two or more of these styles on the same album. Their album title Dog And Butterfly was a symbol of their sometimes contradictory styles, with the "Dog" side of the album focusing on hard rock tunes and the "Butterfly" side made up of acoustic folk music Their epic "Mistral Wind" from this album captured both styles in one song, starting as a mellow acoustic ballad and building to a metal crescendo.
Heart was ranked number 57 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock", and Ann and Nancy Wilson ranked number 40 on VH1's "100 Greatest women in rock and roll". Also, Ann Wilson was ranked in Hit Parader's "Greatest Heavy Metal Vocalists of All Time" at number 78. In 2009 the Wilson sisters were awarded ASCAP's Founders Award in recognition of their songwriting career. In 2011, Heart earned their first nomination for induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the 2012 class, but were ultimately not picked. After a second nomination, the band were announced as inductees to the 2013 class on December 11, 2012. Their Hall of Fame page described the Wilson sisters as the first women to front a hard rock band, and "pioneers ... that inspired women to pick up an electric guitar or start a band". Jake Brown described the band as beginning "a revolution for women in music ... breaking genre barriers and garnering critical acclaim".
In addition to their own recording careers, the Wilson sisters have played a role on the Seattle music scene. Among the artists that have used their Bad Animals Studio are Neil Young, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
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