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Heart is an American rock band who first found success in Canada and later in the United States and worldwide. Over the group’s four decade history, the band has had three primary lineups, with the constant members being lead singer Ann Wilson and guitarist Nancy Wilson. 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 AOR hits and hard rock ballads into the 1990s. WithJupiter’s Darling (2004) and Red Velvet Car (2010), Heart made a return to their hard rock and acoustic folk roots.
To date, Heart has sold over 30 million records worldwide. 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 2010, Heart is among the most commercially enduring hard rock bands in history.
In 1963, bassist Steve Fossen and brothers Roger and Mike Fisher on guitar, formed a band called The Army in Seattle. The group changed its name a number of times, becoming White Heart and Hocus Pocus, before they settled on Heart at the beginning of the 1970s. In 1970 the band was joined by flautist and vocalist Ann Wilson and in 1974 they would be joined by her sister Nancy on acoustic guitar.
The Wilson sisters grew up in Southern California and Taiwan before their father retired from the Marine Corps to the Seattle suburbs. Ann played and sang in various groups in the Washington area until she graduated from high school and in 1970 she auditioned and joined Heart as lead vocalist. Mike Fisher had evaded the draft for the Vietnam War by moving to Vancouver, Canada. In 1971 he crossed the border to see Heart perform in upstate Washington, where he and Ann began a romantic relationship. She persuaded the band to move to Vancouver the next year, where she could be with Mike. Nancy finished high school then went to college. She then played solo gigs until she quit college and moved to Canada to join Heart in 1974. She soon became romantically involved with Roger. After her arrival Mike Fisher retired from active performing to work behind the scenes.The band were joined by John Hannah on keyboards and Brian Johnstone on drums.
Commercial breakthrough (1975–76)
The group played numerous shows around their new home in Vancouver, and they recorded a demo tape with the assistance of producer Mike Flickerand 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 would produce 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). Derosier eventually joined Heart as full-time drummer. Some of the same Canadian investors which backed the studio also backed a separate company Mushroom Records, which was managed by Shelly Siegel. Drummers Duris Maxwell, Dave Wilson, Kat Hendrikse and Michael Derosier 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 theBillboard 200. It eventually sold over one million copies.
Mainstream success (1977–81)
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 spouse 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 the Heart could remix tracks and add new vocals and the album was re-released in 1978. It peaked at number 17 in the US, generating the single “Heartless”, which reached number 24 in the chart, and eventually achieved platinum status.
Little Queen, with the hit “Barracuda” (number 11, 1977), became Heart’s second million-seller. Ann and Nancy appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in July 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 with musical acts like Aerosmith, Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Journey, Frank Marino, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Headeast, 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”.In 1979 the Wilson-Fisher liaisons ended. Roger Fisher left the band and Mike also departed within a month. Nancy Wilson and longtime guitaristHoward Leese filled in the guitar void, and her childhood friend Sue Ennis helped with song collaborations. Thom Jurak argues that the absence of Fisher’s guitar work was evident on the band’s subsequent albums.
Commercial decline (1982–84)
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 cover of the ballad “Tell It Like It Is”, which peaked at number eight, but the album was the first to only achieve gold status. In November 1980, the double album Greatest Hits Live was released and reached number 12 on the US chart,eventually achieving double platinum status. The two-disc set actually 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 covers 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 companies insistence the band turned to established producer Keith Olsen. Both Private Audition and Passionworks had relatively poor sales, failing to reach gold status.The single “How Can I Refuse”, reached 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.
The band moved to Capitol Records and their first album for their new label was simply titled Heart (1985) reached number one, sold five million copies and launched four Top-10 hits: ”What About Love" (number 10, 1985), "Never" (number 4, 1985), "These Dreams" (number 1, 1986) and "Nothin’ at All" (number 10, 1986). A fifth single, “If Looks Could Kill" also charted, giving the band five hit singles from a single album for the first time. Nancy Wilson made cameo appearances in the films Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and The Wild Life (1984), directed byjournalist, screenwriter and director Cameron Crowe, who she married in June 1986.
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 singles hits “Who Will You Run To" (1987), which reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, “There’s the Girl" (1987), which reached number 12, "I Want You So Bad" (1988), which reached number 47, and "Alone" (1987), which reached number one. 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 hits: including “Stranded" and "I Didn’t Want to Need You”, which reached numbers 12 and 24 respectively in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990. “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You" reached number two in the Billboard Hot 100, but created controversy when it was argued that its story line might endanger women by encouraging them to pick up 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 number three.
Hiatus and Lovemongers (1991–2001)
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 their more familiar hits. 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.
Heart returned in 1993 with Desire Walks On, on which Andes and Carmassi were replaced with Fernando Saunders on bass and Denny Fongheiser on drums. The album reached 48 in theBillboard 200 and in 1993 singles “The Woman In Me” and “Black On Black II” reached number 24 and 4 in the Adult Contemporary and Mainstream Rock charts respectively, while “Will You Be There (In the Morning)" reached 39 in the The Billboard 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. This lineup included Leese, Scott Olson (guitars), Jon Bayless (bass), and Scott Adams (sax). Additionally, Lovemongers members Ben Smith (drums) and Frank Cox (guitars, keyboards, percussion) performed in this lineup. They were joined by Nancy for at least one show at The Joint in Las Vegas on October 16, 1995, which was billed as a Heart show and later broadcast by the Westwood One Superstars in Concert series. A videotape of the show was also shown on VH1.
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’s profile was maintained by being the subject of an episode of VH1's Behind the Music and a Greatest Hits boxed set, covering their early work, was released: a second volume focusing on the later part of their career would follow in 2000. 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 Anne 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. These two new men didn’t stay very long and were succeeded in 2004 by Craig Bartok and Debbie Shair. (Sahanaja’s schedule became very busy after he joined Brian Wilson's touring band, but he returned to play with Heart in 2007 for their “Dreamboat Annie Live" show.)
In 2004, with the new lineup, Heart released Jupiter’s 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” (number 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. Also in 2005 Heart appeared in the finale episode of the second season of The L Word on Showtime (broadcast on May 15, 2005), performing “Crazy on You”.
Heart performed with Gretchen Wilson on VH-1's 10 March 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. Ric Markmann then became Heart’s new bassist.
Heart was honored at the second annual VH1 Rock Honors (24 May 2007), and also performed along with Ozzy Osbourne, Genesis and ZZ Top. Gretchen Wilson and Alice in Chains honored the group by performing “Barracuda”. This, along with the inclusion of “Crazy on You” in Guitar Hero II, “Barracuda” in the Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, and Guitar Hero: Smash Hits video game, renewed interest in Heart once again.
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.
Heart appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on January 25, 2008 for Ellen’s birthday show, and performed “Barracuda.” Ellen played an intro to “Barracuda” on Guitar Hero in front of the audience before announcing Heart. On April 9, 2008, the band appeared on Idol Gives Back with Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson, who sang “Barracuda” in harmony with Ann.[dead link] In mid 2008, Heart undertook a U.S. tour with Journey and Cheap Trick. On 31 May 2008, Heart performed at the Artist for the Arts Foundation benefit at Barnum Hall, Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica, CA. Performing live, along side 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.
In July 2009, Heart were special guests on 15 dates of Journey’s summer arena tour. They played at a number of venues, including Louisville’s Freedom Hall, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Sovereign Center, Reno Events Center, and Taco Bell Arena. Heart also headlined a series of shows, with The Bangles opening for them. Heart also headlined at the Verizon Wireless American Music Festival Labor Day 2009. They also wrote two songs (“Mine,” “Civilian”) with American female pop rock duo 78violet for their upcoming self titled studio album.
Return to the Top 10 (2010)
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, and peaked at number 10 on theBillboard 200, becoming the group’s first top 10 album in 20 years. The album also reached number three on Billboard’s Rock Album Chart. Red Velvet Car spawned two singles. “Hey You” peaked at number 26 on Billboard’s AC chart, while “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. There was also a reunion of former male members of the band, including Roger Fisher and Steve Fossen, in May 2010, who performed at the Synergia Northwest concert in Tacoma, Wash. Ann and Nancy Wilson played as part of the 2010 VH1 Divas Support the Troops, along with acts including Katy Perry, Paramore, performing “Crazy on You” with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
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 titledStrange Euphoria in June 2012 which contains many of their biggest hits, unreleased demos, and rare live cuts. On September 18, The Wilson Sisters will release their autobiography entitledKicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll which is co written by Charles L. Cross (Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain).  The band will also release their 14th studio album titled “Fanatic” on October 2, which is being supported in 2012 by a US Tour. Prior to the release of the album “Fanatic” on October 2, the band released two singles (“Walkin’ Good” to AC radio, and the title cut “Fanatic” to Rock radio).
Heart has sold over 30 million records worldwide, had 20 Top 40 singles, six 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.
Heart was ranked number 57 on VH1's “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”, and number 40 on VH1’s “100 Greatest women in rock and roll”. In 2009 the Wilson sisters were awardedASCAP’s Founders Award in recognition of their songwriting career. In 2011 Heart was named as one of the 2012 nominees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but was not selected for induction. The band’s nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 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.
- Ann Wilson - vocals, flute, guitar, keyboards, percussion, violin, autoharp (1972–present)
- Nancy Wilson vocals, guitars, mandolin, keyboards, synthesizers, harmonica (1975–1995, 2002–present)
- Ben Smith - drums (1995–1998, 2002–present)
- Craig Bartock - guitars (2004–present)
- Debbie Shair - keyboards, synthesizers (2004–present)
- Dan Rothchild - bass guitar (2012-present)
- Steve Fossen - bass guitar, percussion (1967–1982)
- Roger Fisher - lead guitars, backing vocals (1967–1979)
- Don Wilhelm - guitars, keyboards, lead vocals (1967–1969)
- Ray Schaefer - drums (1967–1969)
- Gary Ziegelman - lead vocals (1969–1971)
- James Cirrello - guitars (1969–1971)
- Ron Rudge - drums (1969–1971)
- Ken Hansen (1969–1971)
- Debi Cuidon - vocals (1969–1971)
- David Belzer - Hammond B-3, Fender Rhodes electric piano(1971–1974)
- Jeff Johnson - drums (1971–1974)
- Mike Fisher - manager, engineer, producer, lighting[note 2](1972–1979), guitars (1972–1974)
- John Hannah - keyboards (1974–1975)
- Brian Johnstone - drums (1974–1975)
- Howard Leese - guitars, bass, keyboards, synthesizers, mandolin, recorder, orchestra arrangements, autoharp, percussion, backing vocals (1975–1998)
- Michael DeRosier - drums, percussion (1975–1982)
- Mark Andes - bass guitar, backing vocals (1982–1992)
- Denny Carmassi - drums, percussion (1982–1993)
- Denny Fongheiser - drums, percussion (1993–1995)
- Fernando Saunders - bass guitar (1993–1995)
- Scott Olson - guitars (1995–1998, 2002–2003)
- Jon Bayless - bass guitar (1995–1998)
- Scott Adams - saxophone (1995)
- Frank Cox - guitars, keyboards, backing vocals (1995–1998)
- Mike Inez - bass guitar (2002–2006)
- Tom Kellock - keyboards, synthesizers (2002–2003)
- Darian Sahanaja - keyboards, synthesizers (2003–2004, 2007)[note 3]
- Gilby Clarke - guitars (2003–2004)
- Ric Markmann - bass guitar (2006–2009)
- Kristian Attard - bass guitar (2009–2012)