The origins of Heart can be traced back to 1967, but the band really came into it's own when the Wilson sisters joined in the mid-1970s. Ann Wilson became the singer, while Nancy played guitar, sang backing vocals, and took the occasional lead vocal. Heart's Hall of Rock Fame page describes the sisters as the first women to front a hard-rock band.
In June 2016, forty years into their illustrious career, Heart performed at London's iconic Royal Albert Hall for the first time. For the occasion, they were backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The video below shows the band performing their most successful single, Alone. Ann was in her mid-60s, but just listen to how well she sings.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra enhances the poignancy of this version of Alone, but it is Ann's age defying vocals that stand out. Just listen to how her voice soars at the 2m45s mark. As an experienced singer, with years of touring behind her, Ann could have held back on the notes just a bit. Astonishingly, she not only goes full tilt, but adds flourishes while hitting all the high notes. For Heart fans, it is a goose bump inducing performance.
Heart wrote many of their own songs, with Ann and Nancy Wilson being the main songwriters. Early single "Magic Man" (1975) was about Ann's relationship with the band manager, Michael Fisher, while "Crazy on You" (1976) reflects on the stresses on Vietnam-era USA. The lyrics to "Barracuda" (1976) were written in a rage by Ann, when she heard rumours that she was in an incestuous relationship with Nancy. The guitar riff is influenced by Nazareth's cover of Joni Mitchell's This Flight Tonight.
Alone (1987), Heart's best performing song on music charts, was not written by the Wilson sister's and Heart were not the first band to record the song. Alone is the work of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly who recorded it as i-Ten in 1983, to little notice. In 1984 the song was covered by cast members of the CBS sitcom dreams. Of course it is Heart's power-ballad take of Alone that brought it to prominence. Interestingly, the songs co-author, Tom Kelly, sang high harmonies on the Heart version of Alone.
The 2016 Heart concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was thirty years after the release of Alone, yet the band seems in full control and at ease with each other. Unfortunately, the harmony between the Wilson sisters was about to be sorely tested. On 27 August 2016, Nancy's 16-year-old twin son's were assaulted by Anne's husband, Dean Wetter. The attack was provoked by the boy's inspection of Anne's new RV.
Wetter asked the boys to keep the door closed as Anne and Wetter's dogs were inside. The one twin left the door open for a moment, while waiting for his brother to exit. Wetter lashed out at the boys, slapping and punching. He was arrested for assault. The incident damaged the relationship between Ann and Nancy. For the rest of their 2016 tour, the sister's never spoke to each other directly.
After honouring their 2016 dates, it would take until March 2019 for the sisters to join each other on stage. Nancy and Anne started performing together, but without the other members of Heart, who were replaced by Anne's touring band.
When Heart performed at the Royal Albert Hall in June 2016, nobody would have guessed that the Wilson sisters were about to become so estranged that Heart's days were numbered. This is all the more reason to cherish Heart's age-defying appearance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.