Heart has pulsed for more than 30 years, continues to rock

Nancy Wilson clearly remembers the first time she heard her band, Heart, on the radio. It was 1976 in Vancouver, British Columbia. She and her older sister, Ann, had just picked up some groceries and were driving back to the house they shared with their bandmates.

“The local radio had started playing a couple of our songs,” recalled Wilson, 55. “We heard ‘Magic Man’ all of a sudden. (Ann) had to pull over and stop the car because we were completely freaking out to hear that over the radio. We were screaming. It was one of the best moments ever.”

In the years since, the Wilsons have grown accustomed to the novelty. Buoyed by Ann’s vocal dexterity and Nancy’s stick-to-your-ribs guitar hooks, Heart cranked out some of the most memorable rock tunes of the 1970s, including “Magic Man,” “Straight On,” “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda” and “Even It Up.” In a decade of testosterone-addled rock and roll, Heart showcased women who were tenacious and tough-minded.

That resilience served them the following decade. Many industry observers had written off Heart by the early ’80s, but in 1985, it reemerged with a streak of chart-topping power ballads ” including “What About Love?,” “Never,” “Nothin’ at All” and “Alone” ” that were so iconic of their time, just hearing them today can instantly produce really big hair.

IMPRESSIVE CATALOG
Heart brings that impressive catalog to Norman for a Saturday concert at Riverwind Casino.

Nancy Wilson said she and Ann knew as little girls they wanted to make music for a living.

“Our mom played piano, and our dad sang, and we played ukuleles and sang silly songs, so we were really natural musicians from the beginning,” she said. “Then when we saw the Beatles on TV, we were like, ‘That’s what we want to do! We want to have a band, singing and playing guitars, writing music!’ Luckily, we got good at it really fast. I shouldn’t brag, but we were extremely good for such young kids.”

Wilson has earned the right to brag. With more than 30 million records sold worldwide, Heart’s music continues to resonate through popular culture, having penetrated everything from “American Idol” to “Guitar Hero.” Earlier this year, the Wilsons were honored with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Founders Award for their pioneering contributions to music ” an accolade that puts the pair alongside recipients like Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young and Burt Bacharach.

But one distinction remains surprisingly elusive: induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“I hope it happens, but the fact it hasn’t so far is a little off-putting,” she said. “We’ve been out there since ’76, and we have not been at home eating bonbons, either. We’re a working rock band, and we keep creating and we keep touring. There might be a whole perception because we don’t go to a lot of affairs and rub shoulders with a lot of those people very often.

“Maybe it’s kind of a boys’ club we don’t belong to. We’re used to that.”

Heart performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Riverwind Casino, 1544 W. State Highway 9 in Norman. “Phil Bacharach

Phil Bacharach

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