Ann Wilson Recalls Heart’s ‘Soul-Crushing’ ’80s Success
Heart may have enjoyed some of their biggest hits in the ‘80s, but the band’s vaunted frontwoman Ann Wilson has admitted their success in that era was “soul-crushing” for her. According to Wilson, the reason comes down to the songwriting.
The band’s ‘70s hits - like “Magic Man,” “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda” - were penned by Ann and her sister, Nancy. Heart went through a commercial down period in the early ‘80s but came roaring back once they began recording songs written by outside songwriters.
“Capitol Records was saying to us, ‘You had some success in the ‘70s, but your stuff really isn’t what people want now,’” Wilson recalled to Spin. “To not take that personally was huge. It knocked the wind out of me for a few years as a writer. That type of stuff is so wounding, so soul-crushing.
“What made me the most uncomfortable in the 1980s when Heart was doing everybody else’s songs was that the songs seemed like the empty fishbowls that you could pour anybody into and it would be a hit,” the singer continued. “That’s the ultimate example of me biting the hand that fed me. But, at the same time, I’m a creative artist and I want to be authentic and I made this Faustian bargain to do other people’s songs and get No. 1s.”
The list of Heart’s ‘80s hits is huge, with “What About Love,” “Never,” “These Dreams,” “Alone” and “Who Will You Run To” all reaching the Top 10. Of those, only “Never” originated within the band.
“At the end of the day, it’s pretty meaningless. You have a hit because it appeals to the lowest common denominator,” Wilson explained, describing the empty feeling of scoring success with someone else’s song. “There is no real criteria for excellence. I gave up trying to predict what’s going to be a hit decades ago. But having said that, when you write a song in all authenticity and you love it and it becomes a hit, you just go ‘Yeah, I’m a hit writer!’”
This isn't the first time Wilson has looked back harshly at '80s-era Heart. In 2021, the singer revealed she had a "horrible experience" working with Ron Nevison, the producer behind Heart and Bad Animals.
Wilson recently released her third solo album, Fierce Bliss. The LP features seven original songs, as well as covers of Queen, Eurythmics, Robin Trower and Jeff Buckley tracks.