[Interview] Ann Wilson
Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson have been rock stars since the 1970s. But it took almost 40 years for the heartbeat of Heart to be certified by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
The band sold millions of records and millions of dollars of concert tickets, influenced the Seattle music scene that exploded in the 1980s and ’90s, and became role models for women who wanted to rock.
“I’ll tell you something,” says Ann Wilson, the big sister with the big voice who is recognized as one of the best singers of her generation. “The Rock Hall has a woman deficit. Just about every female artist that gets inducted, it has taken too long, so we didn’t feel special there.
“For me, it was a really marvelous night; fun and everything, surreal. But the next day we went back to work. And that’s what it’s really about. I think Joan Jett or the guys in Cheap Trick would say the same thing.”
Coincidentally, recent inductees Jett and Cheap Trick join Heart at Riverbend Friday night.
The (Cheap) Trick is in the not caring
Wilson’s take on the Rock Hall fits squarely with her worldview. Merit should trump gender, opportunity should be equal. And if that is better today than 40 years ago, she’s not bragging when she says Heart might have helped.
“In the early days, we were sort of a novelty in rock – the credibility issue,” she says. “But once a few women, like Chrissie Hynde … Joan Jett was another … proved they were the real thing, it became much better for women. Nancy and I, too. If we helped kick open the door a little bit, then that might have helped.
“But girls can’t sit around and bitch that they aren’t accepted unless they get out there and prove why they should be accepted. Just because you’re a woman is not a good reason for people to give you the brass ring. Or guys either.”
If there was any doubt that the sisters could play with the big boys, they proved it at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012 when they performed “Stairway to Heaven” in tribute to Led Zeppelin. It is one of the 39-year-old event’s signature moments, viewed by millions on YouTube.
“It was a beautiful experience, one I’ll never forget,” Wilson says. “We just really had to keep our eye on the ball … and not freak out. We couldn’t see the Led Zeppelin guys (Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones); they were in a box and we couldn’t read those emotional changes on their faces.”
Viewers could, however, and the images were astounding. Plant was moved to tears, Page was bouncing to the beat in his seat and Jones closed his eyes and smiled throughout.
“(When I saw the video) I took a deep breath and thought, ‘That’s one emotional man (Plant),’ ” Wilson says. “You could tell by seeing Jason Bonham (Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s son was on stage), his best friend’s son during the early days of Zeppelin. Plant said to me later he really liked our version. That was a really great reward for me.”
The real reward: Plant didn’t say “for a girl.”
This story originally appeared in The Enquirer in July 2016