Editor’s Review of Ann & Nancy Wilson’s Autobiography ‘Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll’

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Becoming a rock star is a terrific dream, but one that only very few ever realize and for those who achieve success, many end up at the wrong end of unscrupulous agents or abusing drugs and alcohol which ruin their lives.  But this real life story of two very close sisters, who lived an all American life growing up in the sixties, idolizing the Beatles, and learning to play music from their inspiration, is a story that is not only remarkable, but quite uplifting.  After  all these years, Ann Wilson, the leading force of the rock band Heart, later joined by her sister, Nancy Wilson, persevered and sustained success over some 30 years and today, the band is still rocking!

The story in “Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll,” the biographical account of Heart and the Wilson sisters, covers their early life in a very close family who referred to themselves as the “Big Five” including Ann, Nancy, their Mother, Father, and older sister Lynn, and chronicles the artistic development, success, disappointments, and ultimate triumph of Heart.

The early days for Ann were far less glamorous than her days as a rock star.  In fact, she tells a story of an overweight girl with a stutter and one who endured many insults and disappointments, living a simple life with her family while moving frequently to follow her father, a proud officer in the United States Marines.

When Ann was young, teen girls everywhere loved the Beatles because they were fab and cute; and Ann loved the Beatles too, but what she loved was their music and she simply wanted to play those riffs and chords on stage. A true Beatle fanatic, Ann Wilson had started an all-girl band called Viewpoint and they even sewed their own outfits similar to the Beatles.  This was just the beginning of her musical career.  After several attempts with different bands and band names, Ann finally landed on Heart and when Nancy later joined the band, they were off and running.

While drugs and alcohol did play a role in the lives of these driven siblings, their commitment to the band and their music prevailed.  At the beginning of their career when a prospective label, Mushroom, offered Ann Wilson a contract but only as a single act with no interest in the rest of the band, she walked, out of loyalty to the band.  Later, when Nancy Wilson joined the band they endured “Sister Act” jokes with comments on Nancy’s guitar capabilities and sarcastic questions as to “if it was even plugged in,” not to mention the predictable sex jokes and fantasizing about these two as lesbians in a sexy rock setting.

Heart was like many rock ‘n roll bands in that they had early original compositions, written about men in their lives, that were hits (“Magic Man,” “Barracuda,” “Crazy on You”) which catapulted them into the spotlight signing with a record label and touring the country playing in front of large adoring fans.  What was different about this band was the tight bond between two sisters who were the nucleus of this act and who found themselves under the increasing control of producers and managers who pushed them to be someone they did not want to be. From doing MTV video production with the big hair of the ‘80s and pushing them to show more cleavage, to making albums under the Heart name with compositions they did not write (“These Dreams,” “What about Love”) the Wilson sisters struggled to find meaning in what they had become and more importantly, where they would go from there.

Throughout their journey, with the songs that became such a big part of pop music, these women wove a sense of honesty and sincerity into their music, writing their own lyrics and music, and overcoming drugs and alcohol which were at their disposal, and the skeptics, to rise above it all.  Now, as mothers and Ann as a grandmother, they have embarked on a new journey with a brand new album and tour for 2012.  The story reveals the true fanaticism of these two, which was each other…the true love of two sisters who cared for each other and loved their family past, present, and future…true legends of life!

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