Ann and Nancy Wilson of the seminal rock band Heart are born romantics who grew up under the influence of a real life war hero father and a mother who taught them how to be strong in the face of adversity. This was a time when rock ’n’ roll was the stuff dreams were made of and anything was possible if you grabbed your guitar and hit the road.
The gifted biographer Charles Cross coaxed the Wilson sisters to tell their life story through first person dialogue in the new memoir “Kicking & Dreaming; A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll.” Beginning with the tale of their axe wielding ancestor Hannah Dustin, who was a pioneer hero, on to their mother guiding them around the globe following their Marine Corps father, and through the trials and tribulations of daring to be a female artist in show business – this is a tale of strong women.
As with their music, Ann takes the lead with the storytelling, giving colorful recollections of the heady times of the idealistic’70s and hazy’80s that she defines as a decade lost to “too much hairspray and cocaine.” Her dialogue sometimes wanders towards the dramatic and fantastical, as would seem fitting for a songwriter and lyricist of her caliber, so even when she reveals some of her darker secrets you wonder if there may be more to the story. When Nancy gives her perspective it has more of a serious musical bent to the narrative, as when she explains that the Beatles were paramount among their inspirations to become rockers, saying, “We didn’t want to be Beatle girlfriends. We wanted to be the Beatles.”
Neither one of the Wilson sisters knew that the price of fame would exact a high cost on their personal lives, putting them under the microscope of the press and the pressure of becoming public figures. But like their ancestor, they became bloodied pioneers with a mythical presence and larger than life story.
With Heart, Ann and Nancy Wilson have sold millions of albums, earning Top 10 hits in each of the four decades of their history. They have gone through 27 band members without a death, battled bigotry, the industry, substance abuse, health issues, and partied like rock stars, nearly losing it all many times. But make no mistake, this story of two women who never lost sight of their dreams and stayed true to the music (and to each other) is one that is worthy of study by any aspiring musician.