Heart’s Ann Wilson has a brand new Thing
Throughout its 40+ years in the music business, the rock band Heart, led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, has sold over 35 million records worldwide and has released 20 Top 40 singles and seven Top 10 albums.
It has also received four Grammy Award nominations, performed a tribute to Led Zeppelin in 2012 at the Kennedy Center Honors and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
"There have been some real highs in terms of achievements in Heart," Ann Wilson said during an interview with The Park Record. "There have also been some sublime moments as well."
One of those sublime moments includes forming her solo band, the Ann Wilson Thing, which will perform New Year’s Eve at the Eccles Center.
"Coming out with the Ann Wilson Thing is defining for me because it shows that I can do this by myself with a fine band," Wilson said. "They come away from their families to play in this little project with me usually in little clubs."
The singer is looking forward to the Eccles Center performance.
"First of all, let me say it’s not Heart and we don’t do any Heart material at all," Wilson said. "Instead, we do some originals and a lot of songs that I just love and never had a chance to put my own touch on. It’s really fun for me, because I can get into it without any constraints."
The show will also feature an array of styles.
"This is going to be unique because there is a lot to it besides just flat-out rock," she said. "It’s also more acoustic in some ways and it’s a whole different mindset."
While Wilson won’t perform any Heart works, she will perform a song from the Lovemongers, another band that features her sister.
"We’ll play ‘God Give Me Strength,’" Wilson said. "We also play some Peter Gabriel, John Lennon and Bob Dylan.
"These songs are more thoughtful than what we do in Heart," she said. "The lyrics go deeper, and when I chose these songs for the Ann Wilson Thing the first thing I looked at [was] the lyrics. I love words. I love beautifully written lyrics."
Wilson’s long and winding road to the music industry started when she and her sister saw the Beatles on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in the 1964.
"That was a life-changing moment for both my sister and I," Wilson said. "We started thinking in terms of learning how to play the guitar. Then we thought we needed to learn the guitar well enough to play for people and then it snowballed."
From the Beatles, Wilson discovered the Rolling Stones and other bands and artists that were big on the radio during the late 1960s.
The first songs the sisters wanted to write were protest songs, inspired by Bob Dylan.
"That didn’t really work out for us because we were sitting in the middle of suburbia in a comfortable house with parents who loved us and wanted to give us everything," Wilson said with a laugh. "It just didn’t ring true, but when we started to write songs about topics that we knew about like ‘Magic Man’ and ‘Crazy on You,’ it was so much better for us because we were being more true to our nature."
Although the songs were stronger, getting into the music business in the early 1970s posed some challenges for a rock band fronted by two women.
"When my sister and I started, we couldn’t get on the radio because the DJs would only play one female act once every hour," Wilson said. "So, if Joan Baez or some disco diva had a hit, the other women who were coming out with songs were out of luck."
Over the years Heart has joined a long list of women who have strived for equality in not only the music business, but in society. And that’s a responsibility Wilson doesn’t take lightly.
"Some of the great women of our time like Gloria Steinem, who is my idol, have said ‘A true feminist is someone who sees men and women, all humans, are equal,’" Wilson said. "It’s important for us to stand up and say, ‘here we are’ and we can do an equal job."
In addition to Steinem, Wilson cited the works of Jane Goodall and the late lawyer and social activist Bella Abzug, as having really made a difference to her.
"Look at how many women have big careers now," she said. "We’re well ahead t[of] where we were 30 years ago."
Wilson will continue to make her mark with the Ann Wilson Thing and Heart.
"We’re currently working on a new EP for the Ann Wilson Thing, which will be out at the first of the year," she said. "Heart is also working on a new project that will be out in the summer."
The Park City Institute will present the Ann Wilson Thing at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Thursday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $45 to $185 and can be purchased by calling 435-655-3114 or by visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org.
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