With a mix of hard rock riffs and lush, driving harmonies, Heart emerged from the Pacific Northwest with one of the most original sounds of the 1970s. Behind Ann Wilson’s powerhouse voice — one of the best in rock — and Nancy Wilson’s percussive guitar playing, along with guitarist Roger Fisher, bassist Steve Fossen, guitarist/keyboard player Howard Leese and drummer Michael DeRosier, Heart recorded a series of albums that stand as the best mix of hard rock and folk rock of their era: Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen, Dog And Butterfly and Bebe Le Strange. All those records included hit singles that remain standards of rock radio: “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” “Heartless” and “Barracuda.” Over their long career, Heart has released six Top 10 albums and 20 Top 40 singles. The first women to front a hard rock band, Ann and Nancy Wilson were pioneers, claiming the stage in a way that inspired women to pick up an electric guitar or start a band.
Ann Wilson was born on June 19, 1950, in San Diego. Her sister, Nancy, was born on March 16, 1954, in San Francisco. Their father was a captain in the Marine Corps, and the Wilson sisters grew up in Southern California and Taiwan before he retired to the Seattle suburbs. While in high school, Ann played guitar and flute and sang in various groups. After her high school graduation, Nancy attended college. She played some solo gigs while in school, then quit college to focus more on her music.
In 1970, Ann joined a band called Heart. The group had actually been formed back in 1963 by bassist Steve Fossen and guitarists Roger and Mike Fisher. Its original name was the Army. It then changed to White Heart, then Hocus Pocus. The band members finally settled on the name Heart. Ann became the group’s lead vocalist. In 1974, Nancy joined the band as lead guitarist. Around the same time, Mike Fisher left the band to focus on more behind-the-scenes activities.
The group relocated to Vancouver, where it recorded a demo with producer Mike Flicker and session guitarist and keyboard player Howard Leese, who would become a full-time member of the band. In 1975, the group attracted the attention of Mushroom Records. The following year, Heart recorded its first album, Dreamboat Annie, for the label. It quickly sold some 30,000 copies in Canada, so the label released it in Seattle, where it sold another 25,000 copies. Eventually, the album would yield two hit singles – “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” – and make it to Number Seven on the Billboard chart, selling more than one million copies. By this point, Michael DeRosier had joined the band as its drummer.
In 1977, Heart switched labels, moving from Mushroom to the CBS subsidiary Portrait Records. The move resulted in a lengthy legal battle with Mushroom. That label issued the only partially completed album Magazine in early 1977 just before Portrait released Little Queen. A Seattle court ruled in Heart’s favor, saying that Mushroom had to recall Magazine so that the band could remix several tracks and re-do some of the vocals.
Little Queen, featuring the hit single “Barracuda,” became the group’s second million-seller, and the Wilson sisters were featured on the cover of the July 28, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone. The remixed Magazine followed suit the next year, as did Dog and Butterfly. The latter album included two hit singles: the title song and “Straight On.” Meanwhile, the band’s lineup changed as Roger Fisher left the group.
In 1980, Heart released Bebe le Strange. It made it to Number Five and yielded the Top 40 hit “Even It Up.” Another track, a cover of the ballad “Tell It Like It Is,” reached Number Eight on the charts.
The band’s next two albums, Private Audition and Passionworks, both failed to go gold, prompting Heart to change labels and sign with Capitol Records. The group’s first album for the label, simply titled Heart, went to Number One, sold more than five million copies and yielded four Top 10 singles: “What About Love?”, “Never,” “These Dreams” and “Nothin’ At All.” Bad Animals, released in 1987, included four more hit singles, including “Alone,” which went to Number One. Brigade continued the band’s run, with three more hit singles, including “All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You.” That album was also Heart’s highest-charting album in the U.K., where it reached Number Three.
After a 1990 tour in support of Brigade, the Wilson sisters formed an informal acoustic group called the Lovemongers. That group released a four-song EP that included a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore.” Heart returned in 1993 with the album Desire Walks On. Two years later, Heart issued The Road Home, which included live, acoustic versions of some of the band’s best-known songs. It was produced by John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin.
In the last decade, Heart has released two of the strongest albums of its career: Jupiter’s Darling and Red Velvet Car. The latter album, issued in 2010, featured a return to the melodic hard rock and folk sound of early Heart albums. The album became the group’s first Top 10 album in 20 years.
Overall, Heart has sold more than 30 million records. The group has had 20 Top 40 singles, seven Top 10 albums and four Grammy nominations. In 2012, Heart received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2013, Heart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The original band lineup as well as the new lineup were present and took the stage by storm.