Ann Wilson is one of the greatest vocalists (male or female) in the history of rock music, and she and sister Nancy tore down barriers and shattered expectations with their group Heart.
Since their 1976 debut Dreamboat Annie and it’s classic Top Ten single “Magic Man,” they defied the rules about women in rock, and became an inspiration for a generation of female musicians.
Today is Ann’s 64th birthday, so let’s pay tribute by counting down Heart’s 20 greatest songs (including a couple of Ann’s solo releases).
Note – Compiling this list, I was shocked by how few songs from Heart’s “Bustier Era” (1985 – 1990) I decided to include. There are only three (and only one in the Top Ten). And their first #1 song “These Dreams?” It didn’t even come close.
20. CITY’S BURNING
ALBUM: Private Audition
CHART PEAK: N/A
The early 80’s were rough for the group, as their 82 and 83 releases Private Audition and Passionworks both flopped on the chart, and they left Epic records under less-than-ideal circumstances. Inevitably, those are two of my favorite Heart albums, even though they were torn apart by critics. Private Audition starts off with the ferocious “City’s Burning,” which features Ann at full throttle.
CHART PEAK: #83
The second single from Passionworks, it was their lowest-charting single to hit the Hot 100. Written by Journey‘s Jonathan Cain (who also wrote THE GREATEST LOST HIT OF THE 80’S), it was a power ballad that would foreshadow the next Heart era.
ALBUM: The Golden Child
CHART PEAK: #61
After the enormous success of Heart’s 1985 album, the band took a break before recording the follow-up, and Ann recorded this one-off for the soundtrack of the Eddie Murphy film The Golden Child. Although it had a harder edge than the hits from the comeback album, it’s still curious that it flopped on the chart.
ALBUM: Red Velvet Car
CHART PEAK: N/A
2010’s Red Velvet Car became the group’s first top ten release in twenty years (since Brigade), and the album (and especially the single “WTF”) showed they could rock just as hard as ever.
16. TELL IT LIKE IT IS
ALBUM: Greatest Hits/Live
CHART PEAK: #8
The band released their Greatest Hits collection in 1980, and it included a cover of the Aaron Neville classic “Tell It Like It Is,” which became their first top ten song since “Magic Man.”
CHART PEAK: #4
“What About Love” brought them back to the top ten, and it was “Never” that cemented one of the great comebacks in rock music.
14. DREAMBOAT ANNIE
ALBUM: Dreamboat Annie
CHART PEAK: #42
There are three versions of this song on Heart’s debut album, and they’re all delicate and gorgeous.
13. STRAIGHT ON
ALBUM: Dog & Butterfly
CHART PEAK: #15
The first single from Dog & Butterfly, it became their third Top 20 single. It’s a straightforward rock nugget, with Ann at her most feisty.
12. EVEN IT UP
ALBUM: Bebe La Strange
CHART PEAK: #33
1980’s Bebe La Strange was a mixed bag, with the group experimenting with new sounds, but it was the classic rock cockiness of “Even It Up” that was the highlight. Ann’s not taking your shit anymore, ya bastard.
ALBUM: Bad Animals
CHART PEAK: #1
Spending three weeks at #1, it was the biggest hit of their career, and has been covered by the likes of Carrie Underwood, Celine Dion, and the Glee cast.