Decades later in 2008, Jake Brown's “Heart in the Studio" offered valuable insight into Heart's recordings. Brown's book secured interviews with the Wilsons, along with former producers, so the paperback proved unusually informative.
But Heart's story beyond the music hasn't been sufficiently detailed until the thorough and entertaining “Kicking & Dreaming." The joint autobiography traces the history of a pioneering '70s rock group fronted by two sisters at a time when women didn't commonly lead rock bands. The Wilson family story also dovetails with the culture of America at the end of World War II, through the Korean War and the Vietnam War, which ultimately determined the setting of Heart's origin.
The briskly paced book arrives in a busy year for the sisters, who, in addition to writing this memoir, compiled a Heart box set, recorded “Fanatic," a solid new album of heavy rock due in October, and embarked on a tour that brings them to Hollywood's Hard Rock Live on Nov. 4.
The various projects combine to capture all facets of Heart. But the book, co-written with Seattle-based music biographer Charles Cross, is the most satisfying for its breadth and spirit.
Using first-person voice, the Wilsons write movingly and with a sense of humor about their uprooted upbringing as daughters of a Marine who would become a school teacher. Ann dealt with issues concerning her weight from childhood onward (the two days she dreaded the most in school were Health Assessment Day and Valentine's Day).
Finding fame didn't solve the problems. Sexism was rampant in the music industry. Heart came to be derisively known as “Led Zeppelin with (breasts)." Worse, Mushroom, the group's defunct first label, placed an industry ad suggestively implying that the sisters were also lesbian lovers.
The ultimate take-home points from the Wilsons' memoir — familial love is plenty cool and believing in oneself is not particular to any one gender — is poignant.
“The bond between Nancy and me grows deeper each year," Ann writes.