Introduction to Heart: Ann and Nancy Wilson


Heart have remained one of the most commercially enduring groups in history, with sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson maintained their stead as the group’s core and creative force. The American band was initially a quintet, actually formed by Steve Fossen, Roger Fisher in the 1960s. They dubbed themselves as The Army, then they changed it into White Heart, before settling on just Heart, and then to Hocus Pocus. Ann Wilson joined the band in the early 1970s, got involved with Roger’s brother Mike and together the two went to Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada. Fossen and Roger Fisher eventually followed, and it was there in Vancouver where Heart was officially formed and eventually got hooked with Shelly Siegel’s Mushroom Rcords. Heart’s debut album Dreamboat Annie did well in the Canada which prompted the label to release the album on the United States.Dremaboat Anniefinished strong there, thanks to big hits “Crazy On You” and “Magic Man”, both Top 40 hits with the latter peaking at #9 in 1976. Following this commercial breakthrough for the band, in 1977 they severed their contract with Mushroom and jumped to CBS’ sister imprint Portrait. This resulted into a protracted legal battle with Mushroom/Siegel, who released the almost-completed album Magazine just before CBS issued the actual follow-up Little Queen. The court ruled in the favor of releasing Little Queen beforeMagazine, both of which issued their own hit singles “Barracuda” and “Heartless” respectively. 1978’s Dog and Butterfly LP became a double-platinum triumph. In 1980 Heart released Bebe Le Strange which was supported by a long tour. Personnel changes occurred, and Heart release a couple of albums which were commercial failures. Heart rebounded 1985 through their self-titled album that yielded four Top 10 pop hits: “What About Love?”, “Never”, “These Dreams” (that went to #1), and “Nothin’ at All”. 1987’s Bad Animals yielded another #1 hit “Alone” and other Top 20 hits “Who Will You Run To” and “There’s The Girl”. In 1991 the Wilson sisters took a hiatus from Heart and formed an acoustic act The Lovemongers with Sue Ennis and Frank Cox; they issued a four-track EP in late 1992, which included their live cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore”. In 1993 Heart returned with another album Desire Walks On, yielding a Top 40 hit “Will You Be There (In The Morning)”. Heart again were on a hiatus by the early 1990s as the Wilson sisters mainly focused their attention to Lovemongers as well as other projects. It was the during around that time when the “best-of” compilations were released (a pair of Greatest Hits albums), as well as their music appearing on movie soundtracks. In 2012 Heart released their boxed-set compilation Strange Euphoria, as well as Fanatic which consisted of new material.

Formation of Heart

The two most prominent members of the hard rock band Heart are musically talented sisters Ann (born in 1950) and Nancy Wilson (born in 1954). They originally hailed from Seattle, Washington. Before getting involved in Heart, the group was actually formed during the 1960s by male musicians — bassist Steve Fossen and guitarist brothers Mike and Roger Fisher. They initially called their group the Army, and then renamed it as White Heart before ending up with just Heart. By then they had added two more musicians David Belzer (keyboards) and Jeff Johnson (drums). The band members would soon relocate to Vancouver, British Columbia in neighboring Canada.

Ann Wilson joined Heart in 1970 (some sources say 1972). Sister Nancy followed in 1974. It is quite interesting to note that the Wilson sisters began to have romantic involvements with the Fisher brothers, with Ann and Mike and then in turn, Nancy and Roger. Mike soon withdrew from being active to become a sound engineer.

The band began to play gigs at local spots in Vancouver until they were approached by record producer Shelly Siegel who owned Mushroom Records. The label signed Heart in 1975, and keyboardist Howard Leese and drummer Michael Derosier joined as new members of the group.

Initial commercial triumph and eventual slump

That same year, Heart recorded their first album Dreamboat Annie, which was released the in 1976. The album sold 30,000 copies in Canada in just a matter of months. Siegel and Mushroom soon released Dreamboat Annie in the US, and it also became a commercial success, earning a platinum certification. Two singles on the album that contributed to its success were “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” both of which went to the US Billboard Top 40, with “Magic Man” peaking at #9.

In 1977, Heart infringed their contract with Mushroom and signed to CBS Records’ subsidiary imprint Portrait. This caused the band to launch a lengthy legal battle with Siegle and Mushroom Records, who went on to release the unfinished album Magazine just before Heart released its true album on Portrait, Little Queen. The album featured the single “Barracuda,” which was a notch shy of making to the Top 10.

In 1978, Heart re-released Magazine which was re-mixed and added with additional vocals. It featured the #24 hit single “Heartless.” That same year the band released Dog and Butterfly which yielded two hit singles “Straight Out” (at #15) and the title track (at #34). The album itself went double-platinum.

Despite the success, the band members’ personal lives weren’t looking rosy, as tensions led to the end of Wilson/Fisher romances around that time. Soon after, the Fisher brothers soon left the band. Nancy and Howard Leesse stepped up to fill Roger’s absence, and the group began to record for their next album which wasBebe Le Strange, released in 1980. It was a hit, peaking at #5 and going platinum in the US. Also in 1980, Heart released their double-platinum Greatest Hits Live album.

Fossen and Derosier also left the group and bassist Mark Andes and drummer Denny Carmassi replaced the ex-members. Heart released next two albums Private Auditon (1982) and Passionworks (1983) which didn’t become successful. It was around that time that Heart was experiencing a commercial slump.

Rebound from commercial slump, The Lovemongers, and later career

That slump wouldn’t last long however, as Heart bounced back in 1985 with their eponymous eighth studio album. Heart became a multiplatinum triumph, launching a host of power ballads “What About Love?” (at #10), “Never” (at #4), “These Dreams” (their first #1 hit), and “Nothin’ At All” (at #10). Heart then released their Bad AnimalsLP which also became a commercial success on the strength of the singles “Alone” (at #1), “Who Will You Run To” (at #7) and “There’s The Girl” (at #12).

Heart released their tenth studio album Brigade in 1990. It went double platinum in the US and five times platinum in Canada due to the success of the singles “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You” (at #2), “I Didn’t Want To Need You” (at #23), and “Stranded” (at #13).

The Wilson sisters shelved Heart for a while and formed an acoustic act The Lovemongers which included Frank Cox and Sue Ennis, the latter having been a longtime songwriter for Heart. In 1993, Heart returned and released Desire Walks On, which was to be their last studio album to receive a gold certification. After that they went into hiatus again, while the Wilson sisters shifted their focus to The Lovemongers, as well as for some personal matters.

In 2002, Ann and Nancy hit the road again with a newly revamped Heart, and released Alive In Seattle in 2003 which went gold; the DVD of the Seattle concert has also been released. Nancy Wilson also launched her solo career in 2007 but she still remained with Heart. Then they came out with three more studio albums Jupiters Darling (2004), Red Velvet Car (2010) and Fanatic (2012). In 2012 they issued their latest compilation album Strange Euphoria.

Because of their unique style and contributions to the music industry, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.