Two sisters. Two voices. One Heart.
The mystery of "Magic Man". The wicked riff of "Barracuda". The sadness and beauty of "Alone". The raw energy of "Crazy On You". These songs, and so many more, are part of the fabric of American music. Heart, fronted by Ann and Nancy Wilson, has given fans everywhere classic, raw, and pure badass rock and roll for more than three decades. As the only sisters in rock who write their own music and play their own instruments, Ann and Nancy have always stood apart - certainly from their male counterparts but also from their female peers. By refusing to let themselves and their music be defined by their gender, and by never allowing their sexuality to overshadow their talent, the Wilson sisters have made their mark, and in the process paved the way for many of today's female artists.
In Kicking and Dreaming, Ann and Nancy, with the help of critically acclaimed and best-selling music biographer Charles R. Cross, recount a journey that has taken them from a gypsy-like life as the children of a globe-trotting Marine to the frozen back roads of Vancouver, where they got their start as a band, to the pinnacle of success - and sometimes excess. In these pages, readers will learn the truth about the relationship that inspired "Magic Man" and "Crazy On You", the turmoil of inter-band romances gone awry, the reality of life on the road as single women and then as mothers of small children, and the thrill of performing and in some cases partying with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, Van Halen, Def Leppard, and other rock legends. It has not always been an easy path. Ann struggled with and triumphed over a childhood stutter, body image, and alcoholism; Nancy suffered the pain and disappointment of fertility issues and a failed marriage but ultimately found love again and happiness as a mom. Through it all, the sisters drew from the strength of a family bond that trumps everything else, as told in this intimate, honest, and uniquely female take on the rock and roll life.
Throughout their career, Ann and Nancy have never found an answer to the question they are most frequently asked: "What is it like to be a woman in rock and roll?" Kicking and Dreaming puts that question to bed, once and for all.
©2012 Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers
I really like thrillers. My favorite type of movie or book is one that has a unique perspective instead of a different version of the same story repeated by many different writers throughout the years. Many books are fine for a one-time listen, but to find one that's good enough to listen to again and again is a rare find indeed!!
I'm not a fan of true life stories, but every now and then I've taken a chance. I read two books when I was in my 20s about The Beach Boys and about The Beatles. It really affected how I felt about them and their music, especially the one about The Beach Boys. To this day I can't stand their songs -- the very ones I used to like and enjoy before I read the book. When I got older I wondered if they were true biographies or just some trash someone wrote.
So I knew I was taking a chance with another rock'n'roll book. Yet this book was told by the people themselves: Ann and Nancy Wilson who I always knew as the sisters of the band Heart. Since I enjoyed the sample listen, I decided to download it and I enjoyed it. Parts of it I didn't care for -- the part that always seems to belong to the lives of those in the rock'n'roll bands, because I don't like hearing about drugs and sex. However, it wasn't lurid details they gave when recounting this part of their lives. It simply was.
As for the rest of the book, I really enjoyed it!! It was interesting to hear it told from both Ann and Nancy, as well as getting to hear memories by other people in their lives. If you were ever a fan of Heart, you know what excellent singers these women are and their reading voices were good, too. At first, even though an announcer tells you which person is speaking, it was difficult to distinguish their voices. Once I caught on, I could picture each woman as I've seen them performing on tv shows and videos throughout the years.
I first fell in love with Heart's music when I was in my late teens, so it was a thrill for me to hear the women tell of how "Magic Man," "Crazy On You," and "Dreamboat Annie" came into being. I followed their career and music for a while, then moved on. I came upon them later in their career and enjoyed "Barracuda" and "These Dreams" as well as others. Once again, I could remember the songs as they described the origin of the words.
I think what I especially liked about hearing the story of Ann and Nancy Wilson in their own words was realizing what I never knew before: they carved a pathway for lead female singers and lead female guitarists in the rock industry!! They really had a tough time dealing with stereotypes in a male dominated profession!! To their credit, they have continued their careers with its various ups and downs throughout these many decades, putting up with what might have broken lesser determined women.
I always dreamed about how that would have been me and my sister on stage, knowing which one of us would be which one of the Wilson sisters. Being so close to my sister, it made my heart happy to know how close they always were and still are!! It also tickled me to see how excited they were, no matter how old they were or how much success they had achieved, whenever they'd meet a rock idol of theirs!!
Any rock'n'roll fan, any fan of Heart, any fan of the Wilson sisters will truly enjoy this book!! They're so real, so down-to-earth, so loving and such gifted and talented artists!!
I especially loved listening to the this audible book because Ann and Nancy read and recorded the story themselves. It's like sitting around a fire listening to true tales of their lives from childhood to now. It's a very intimate glimpse into their family life as well as their backstage and touring world. These are not frivolous women, they are as serious as Seattle. They tell of their failures and triumphs both equally and it makes one realize how dreams can come true even if they don't turn out exactly the way we imagined. These two women are sincere and authentic even after years of being pummeled by the things that fame and the entertainment business bring. They have always "had each other's backs" while remaining completely unique individuals. The two of them let us in on their feelings, insecurities and guilty pleasures. The listener time travels with Heart through the years of love and loss, adventure and excitement. I cried with them through some of the emotional experiences and was sad when the book ended.
It could be slightly compared to Keith Richard's Autobiography because they tell of their parents and family history all the way to present times and give answers to some of the urban legends and mysteries that have surrounded them. They have always been "rock and roll" and were immersed in the life fully whether they wanted to be or not. Keith and the Wilson sisters both always felt that the MUSIC was what mattered and never compromised that.
I've listened to their music for most of my life. It was interesting to hear the background story.
The same one used for the book - "The Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll"
I think the book is better in audible form than the paper version because the REAL people that lived it are telling the story in real time! It doesn't get better than that if you are an autobiography fan.
Although not a big fan of Heart, I really enjoyed listening to the sisters tell in their own voices about their experiences in starting the band and playing through the years. I found this to be a really solid listen.
First, let me start by saying I LOVE HEART. Great records, great songs, great performances, and a wide variety of music - what's not to like? The early history of the band is a great story of finding one's way and overcoming adversity (ie. weight, the perceptions of others, etc.) to carve out a truly great body of work. There's also a very clear sense of exactly how the Wilson sisters ultimately came to holding full control of the band, edging out the founders in the process - and that's actually a compelling and rational part of the story, which doesn't leave a sense of false ownership. Really, the band's appeal was always squarely focused on the sisters (for better or worse), not the various other members. Hats off to Howard Leese, quite frankly, for sticking around as long as he did; he clearly contributed significant amounts to Heart's legacy.
As the story makes its way into the 80's, however, the tone changes from empowerment to embellishment. It is awkward to hear a pair of trail-blazers for women in music (a term they are tired of hearing, I'm sure) describe their 80's-era output of music in such calculating terms - that the outside-written songs were terrible, that their outfits were involuntarily foisted on them, that the image and direction of the band was seemingly out of their hands, etc. It would be easier to respect that period of their career if they took responsibility for the choices that characterized it - and make no mistake: these were choices within their power to direct otherwise, and they instead opted to pursue an adulterated image and made-to-order song selections to maintain their profile and popularity in an ever-changing musical landscape. Others have opted to remain absolutely true to their musical integrity, which has led to bands being dropped, independent recording, and overall downsized fame (or even flame-out) and audience base - but I'll bet the audience that stuck around for those bands were the true believers that recognized authenticity and an unwavering sense of purpose.
The Wilsons will unfortunately probably never know how many of their 80s-era fans were fans of them or of the highly processed pop music they were recording at that time. And, again - I love Heart, and I really love a lot of what was on those Capitol albums (Heart, Bad Animals, Brigade, even Desire Walks On), because a great pop song is a great pop song, and a great performance is priceless. I just wish they were proud enough of that period to take ownership for their part in it, rather than suggesting they were involuntary participants, which seems a bit like having your cake and eating it too (enjoying the popularity, but disdaining the artistic compromises that made it possible). Hell, I'm sure Pat Benatar is sick to death of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (an outside-written song, itself), but she still retains the pride of where that song took her to continue performing it in concert - a fact that I'm sure Eddie Schwartz (its writer) continues to appreciate.
Bottom line: this audiobook is a great story about a great band, then becomes a not-quite-apology for a period of their career they freely embraced at the time, to significant fame and financial gain. It seems that, if a band doesn't want to forever be defined by a song as mundane (my apologies, Mutt Lange) as "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You", they probably shouldn't have recorded it in the first place. Celebrity and adulation need to be actively pursued - no one has ever been forced to become popular at gunpoint.
The more you love books... the more books you love!
Okay, as a female musician, I may be biased; I think Ann Wilson is one of the greatest singers in rock, and the songs Heart wrote in the 1970s are amazing. I recently saw Heart play live. These sixty-year-old women are still strong musicians and they can ROCK. So, I was prepared to really enjoy this book.
I loved learning about the music industry, and hearing the stories behind my favourite Heart songs -- all narrated by the actual Wilson sisters!
I am not a fan of Heart's 80s music, and it was particularly gratifying to learn that they didn't particularly care for some of those songs either -- it was the coke-fueled 80s 'star maker machinery' that was responsible for that egregious period. I could never correlate the talent that wrote the powerful "Barracuda" with the drivel that is "All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You". Makes sense now.
My only complaint was that I would have liked to have heard more about how the sisters' became musicians in the first place -- because the story begins when they are already in the fledgling incarnation of Heart.
A good listen.
Yes, I am actually on my second listen and really enjoy it. Ann and Nancy do a fantastic job recounting their lives and it's great to hear in in their own voices.
Love them both. I especially liked how they explained how the Beatles inspired them. They sure sounded like interesting, focused kids and I admire their commitment to the music, their family, and themselves.
I enjoyed so much, it's hard to decide. That's part of the reason I am listening to it all over again - it's THAT good!
Yes, definitely. It might have also been nice if the intro and conclusion music would have been a Heart tune instead of something else
My only complaint is that i HATED how a narrator introduced each voice with each chapter. One can quickly/easily distinguish between Ann & Nancy's voices, so this "intrusion" is unnecessary and kind of disruptive.
I good clear assessment of who they are, where they wre, and how they got to where they wanted to go.
For me, the dicussion about their work in the mid 80's was memorable. It was the time when I started to tune them out, the book helped explain how it all happened.
I really enjoyed hearing about the various records and songs. I often paused the book to relisten to an old album or song to tie it well with the book.
Ann's complete honesty about weight, drugs and relationships along the way was quite moving. She was open and frank and honest. Very refreshing to find someone willing to be so open. As I 37 year fan I appreciate the trust she shared with me, the reader.
I loved the book and read through it quite quickly (for me). I found the way that some rather dark areas of the history were shared honestly and reflectively. When certain details came out that could hav ebeen exploited, I found their approach rather clear, frank and honest. This was no gossip rag biography.
I read quite a few of the other reviews before downloading this one; I'm not sure why I was on the fence. I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this audiobook, especially as the sisters Wilson took their respective turns at narration. I think they were very candid and open about their own failings and quite generous to others in their history. I gained a much greater appreciation for each of them as musicians, songwriters and captains of their own fates; I've spent the last week on Spotify listening to lots of their music over again.
Another reviewer here on Audible was quite scornful about their passivity during the 1980's - their most financially successful period and the beginning of the uber-focus on Ann Wilson's weight gain - and I have to say that I cannot agree with the other reviewer. I believe they wrote very sincerely about how they lost their way artistically during that time and how they laboriously clawed their way back to themselves through great personal challenges. I have read/heard a fair number of musicians' memoirs/autobiographies/biographies over the last 30 years (at least 40 or more I think) and this was the first one where the heartbreak of infertility was discussed in depth!
The best memoir I've EVER heard is Keith Richard's "Life"; this book is just a notch below that one - but only a notch! Ann & Nancy Wilson are unique in their position as rockers, siblings & women and this book tells so much of that history - I definitely recommend it.
I *did* listen to it again. I wanted to listen for the story between the lines stuff that gets left out per courtesy and/or legal department recommendations.
Ann and Nancy didn't want to be the Beatles' girlfriends, like their friends did - they wanted to be the Beatles; to play their own music, write their own songs, to be feminine and sexy and powerful.
K & S discusses Ann's struggles with her weight going back to pre-adolescence, and the pressure this put upon her, and the band - as if the ONLY accepted standard of beauty is thin, and the only measure of musical quality for a femme-led band is not voice, nor songwriting quality, nor musical performance, but the size and shape of the female members.
Ann talking frankly about her love/obsession for Michael Fisher. Quitting the band and taking off for Canada (whence M. Fisher had gone to escape the Vietnam draft), and living with him in a little round house over a stream, in a bed built on driftwood branches.
Nancy and her own similar but differing ideas and in the end, determination to find her own way.
* The intriguing details about the Magazine album, and finishing it under armed guard.
* I loved hearing about the "birth" of one of my favorite songs, Mistral Wind.
* The many stars who tried (and failed) to bed the Wilson sisters, either separately or together.
* Ann referring to "the song writing me," something I often feel about a story.
* The glimpses of the birth of the Seattle grunge movement, and Ann as one of its "mothers," down to sheltering its stars in her home and (platonically) in her bed.
* I cannot now remember which Heart band member wore unitards so as to show off his third nipple.
*The birth of the Lovemongers acoustic group.
* The 1995 official Heart hiatus as Nancy needed to work on babymaking.
Nancy's voice is sweet, and she has a way of inflecting sentences in the MIDdle, almost as if they are a QUEStion. Ann's voice is richer and lower in timbre, but was also somewhat raspy, and I wondered if she recorded her narration with a cold.
There are also sections read by their sister Lynn, and by others, like their co-songwriter Sue Ennis, and the band's former manager (and Ann's ex) Mike Fisher, lead guitarist (and Nancy's ex) Roger Fisher, Howard Leese, and more. It surprised me a bit that the exes would cooperate to the point of recording audio material.
When the music industry said they were finished, Heart was just getting started.
I suspect that genuine Heart fanatics who've followed every Rolling Stone and Circus and fanzine interview may feel like there's nothing genuinely new here. But for those like me, who genuinely enjoy the music, but haven't hung on every interview beyond the lyrics, there's a lot of insight here. It's also a fascinating look at the growth and changes in the music industry over the decades.
Close to the top
Just how much love they show for each other and their family.
It is like you are sitting there listening to them telling story's and you get the emotion through the way they tell everything. They were great.
Great to hear the truth behind all the rumours, the weight battles and personal trials of Ann & Nancy with the added bonus of narration by the ladies themselves and also other people mentioned in the book contribute. From the early days with family memories to the present day. A good length without being too long. Recommended for both Heart fans or those wishing to hear a good biography.
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