Heart: A Legendary Rock Band Looks Ahead Heart, led by Ann and Nancy Wilson, has survived more than three decades of music and fashion, selling 30 million albums in the process. The group is back with a new record called Red Velvet Car. Here, the Wilsons assess their career and music with Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon.
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Heart: A Legendary Rock Band Looks Ahead

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Heart: A Legendary Rock Band Looks Ahead

Heart: A Legendary Rock Band Looks Ahead

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In the 1970s, two women proved that they could rock any man.

(Soundbite of song, "Magic Man")

HEART (Music Group): (Singing) I try understand. I try to understand. Try, try, try to understand. He's a magic man.

SIMON: That's "Magic Man" by the power rockers Heart, fronted and founded by the sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson. They have survived three decades of music and fashion - even the invasion in the 1980s of power ballads, big hair and shoulder pads. Heart has sold more than 30 million albums and had so many hit singles, including "Barracuda," "Crazy on You," and "These Dreams."

(Soundbite of song, "These Dreams")

HEART: (Singing) These dreams go on when I close my eyes. Every second of the night, I live another life. These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside...

SIMON: And after all this time, Heart's still beating strong. They're back with a new album. It's called "Red Velvet Car." Ann and Nancy Wilson join us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. NANCY WILSON (Heart): Hey, Scott. Hi.

Ms. ANN WILSON (Heart): Hey, hi.

SIMON: Very good. Forgive me - which is Ann and which is Nancy?

Ms. A. WILSON: This is Ann right here.

Ms. N. WILSON: And I'm the other one right over here.

SIMON: Of course, you're sisters, so, like, you sound alike anyway, so this is difficult for us.

Ms. A. WILSON: Yeah. I'll just talk like this for the rest of the interview.

Ms. N. WILSON: And I'll talk like this.

SIMON: That's perfect. So how difficult was it in the '70s for women in rock?

Ms. A. WILSON: Oh, well, it was darn nigh impossible for women in rock in the '70s. There wasn't a mold. If you were a woman and you were in the entertainment business in the '70s, you were probably a disco diva or maybe you were a folk singer. And most radio...

Ms. N. WILSON: Or simply ornamental.

Ms. A. WILSON: Yes, or just ornamental.

Ms. N. WILSON: Yeah.

Ms. A. WILSON: And, of course, radio would only play one woman per hour, no more. So there were some obstacles, shall we say.

(Soundbite of song, "WTF")

SIMON: Let's listen to a song from your new album, "WTF."

(Soundbite of song, "WTF")

HEART: (Singing) I was talking (unintelligible) talking about your fantasy. Gonna talk you right away. Talk until the eagles pray...

SIMON: WTF stands for...

Ms. N. WILSON: Where's the fish? No, World Taekwondo Federation.

SIMON: Well, I was going to suggest Wild Thrashing Females.

Ms. A. WILSON: Oh. Well, that's way better. That's way better.

Ms. N. WILSON: You put some thought into that.

SIMON: Well, and it has the added advantage of it's something we can actually say on the air as opposed to...

Ms. A. WILSON: Yes, and you won't have to pay your children money after you say it.

Ms. N. WILSON: The recurring motif in that song is the hardest thing you'll ever learn is what bridge to cross and what bridge to burn, was culled right out of some writings that our mom left behind in her journals, which I was pouring through all of her writings after she had departed and found that one and kept it in the pocket until it was ready to, you know, come into a rock song.

So it's very interesting that she speaks through us still, even though she's not around, and in such a very strong way.

(Soundbite of song, "WTF")

HEART: (Singing) I was talking the other day, talk about your fantasy. I thought I told you right away, talk until the eagles pray, yeah.

SIMON: How old were you when you began to noodle around in music?

Ms. N. WILSON: Very, very young. We came from such a musical family with our grandparents and aunts and uncles and ukuleles and fireplaces and lots of living rooms and people chiming in and singing the old songs. Lots of old Irish, off-colored Irish pub songs. And, you know, we really, I think, have a legacy that is so rare anymore to hear about.

SIMON: And when you talk about legacy, a family that made music together as opposed to hitting the switch and letting (unintelligible)...

Ms. A. WILSON: Right.

Ms. N. WILSON: Yeah.

Ms. A. WILSON: And all the aunts and uncles and the ukuleles and, you know, camping trips and all that.

Ms. N. WILSON: Largely, at least growing up inside of it, it felt really very funny and very Garrison Keillor, you know, very - everybody really knows every peccadillo in the small village that was our family and appreciated all of it.

SIMON: Now, Nancy, you're married to Cameron Crowe.

Ms. N. WILSON: Yes, I am.

SIMON: And as I understand, you've worked on soundtracks for "Vanilla Sky" and "Jerry Maguire," "Almost Famous"?

Ms. N. WILSON: That's right. I wanted to learn more about music and being a player of music. By doing the non-songwriting aspect of movie music, it's really hard work. And I think it's not any easier because it's for a member of your family, you know.

SIMON: Well, this is that, this is what this is the little door I was going to open.

Ms. N. WILSON: The nepotistic thing...

SIMON: Well, the nepotistic thing didn't occur to me, 'cause obviously you're an extravagantly well regarded music maker, but this did occur to me: You're used to having a long-term working relationship with your sister. Does that make you better equipped to have a working relationship with your husband, who directs these big films?

Ms. N. WILSON: Yes, I think so. There's a work ethic that applies to a relationship that's unusual that way, where you have to compartmentalize enough as a professional to not lean on your personal relationship or getting away with anything. If anything, the standard is much higher, because you have to prove that you're not just leaning on a friendly relationship.

SIMON: I'm talking to Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart.

Another song from your album I want to ask you about. The title track, "Red Velvet Car."

(Soundbite of song, "Red Velvet Car")

HEART: (Singing) No need standing in the rain. Just call and tell me where you are. That icy wind will bring the pain. And I don't care if it's far. Don't sit crying in your room...

Ms. A. WILSON: This is a song about friendship, deep friendship - maybe a spouse, maybe a partner, maybe not. Maybe just like a childhood friend that you still know when you're 60. It's about incredibly deep sacrifices that a true friend will make for you. And the red velvet car in the song is the comfortable, safe environment that your friend will invite you into when you're totally in need.

(Soundbite of song, "Red Velvet Car")

HEART: (Singing) You can sleep while I drive. Watch the moon out on the lake. I wanna (unintelligible) in my red velvet car. My red velvet car. My red velvet car.

SIMON: So what's the secret of sisters working together, getting along so well together, at least near as we can tell, for so long?

Ms. N. WILSON: I think the secret is love and humor.

Ms. A. WILSON: People are always saying, do you guys fight? They want to know...

SIMON: You mean this wasn't a totally original line of inquiry?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. A. WILSON: Well, the thing is that between Nancy and I, it's not a competition. That's all there is to it, really. We're not competing with each other for fame or for, you know, our mother's attention or for anything like that. I think our friendship may even trump our sisterhood.

Ms. N. WILSON: Yeah, it's true.

Ms. A. WILSON: I mean, that...

Ms. N. WILSON: We would've found each other as artists either way.

Ms. A. WILSON: I think that too.

SIMON: If I ever have the opportunity to interview Mick Jagger or Eric Clapton, I'll ask this question: Is it hard to grow up and grow even older in rock?

Ms. A. WILSON: It's tricky, let me tell you. It's a slippery slope because you're working in a field that is incredibly unforgiving. The only way that I can deal with it inside my own self is to try to let go of all the concern about what's this person going to think, what's that person going to think; oh, what if they say this about me that's negative because I'm aging? I got to let go of that. I've got to keep my eye on the ball that's in the music and on who I am and letting my soul sing out, no matter what age.

That's the only way I know of to be in this business and be semi-comfortable.

Ms. N. WILSON: That's good. That's right.

SIMON: It's been wonderful talking to both of you. Thanks so much.

Ms. N. WILSON: Yeah, that was really...

Ms. A. WILSON: Thank you.

Ms. N. WILSON: ...fun to talk to you too.

(Soundbite of song, "Hey You")

HEART: (Singing) You've been down this lonely road. You have kissed the space of sorrow...

SIMON: Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. Their new album, "Red Velvet Car," out now. And you can hear more songs from Heart at our website, one of our websites, NPRMusic.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Hey You")

HEART: (Singing) You are one of a kind. You are some kind of fine. Hey, you...

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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