With a mix of hard rock riffs and lush, driving harmonies, Heart emerged from the Pacific Northwest with one of the most original sounds of the 1970s. Behind Ann Wilson’s powerhouse voice — one of the best in rock — and Nancy Wilson’s percussive guitar playing, along with guitarist Roger Fisher, bassist Steve Fossen, guitarist/keyboard player Howard Leese and drummer Michael DeRosier, Heart recorded a series of albums that stand as the best mix of hard rock and folk rock of their era: Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen, Dog And Butterfly and Bebe Le Strange. All those records included hit singles that remain standards of rock radio: “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” “Heartless” and “Barracuda.” Over their long career, Heart has released six Top 10 albums and 20 Top 40 singles. The first women to front a hard rock band, Ann and Nancy Wilson were pioneers, claiming the stage in a way that inspired women to pick up an electric guitar or start a band.
Ann Wilson was born on June 19, 1950, in San Diego. Her sister, Nancy, was born on March 16, 1954, in San Francisco. Their father was a captain in the Marine Corps, and the Wilson sisters grew up in Southern California and Taiwan before he retired to the Seattle suburbs. While in high school, Ann played guitar and flute and sang in various groups. After her high school graduation, Nancy attended college. She played some solo gigs while in school, then quit college to focus more on her music.
In 1970, Ann joined a band called Heart. The group had actually been formed back in 1963 by bassist Steve Fossen and guitarists Roger and Mike Fisher. Its original name was the Army. It then changed to White Heart, then Hocus Pocus. The band members finally settled on the name Heart. Ann became the group’s lead vocalist. In 1974, Nancy joined the band as lead guitarist. Around the same time, Mike Fisher left the band to focus on more behind-the-scenes activities.
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Few bands short of the Beatles inspired more kids to play the guitar and drums than KISS. With their signature makeup, explosive stage show and anthems like “Rock And Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City,” they are the very personification of rock stars.
Original members Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons came together in New York in 1972. While their first two records did not generate many sales, they quickly gained a national following for their bombastic, pyro-filled stage show. Their 1975 live album Alive! captured that energy and reached Number Nine on the charts, quickly making them one of the most popular bands of the 1970s – scoring countless hit singles, sold-out tours and appearing everywhere from comic books to lunch boxes to their very own TV movie. In 1977, KISS received a People’s Choice Award for the song “Beth.”
Ace Frehley and Peter Criss left the band in the early 1980s to pursue solo careers, while KISS regrouped with a different lineup of musicians. Another major change was the group’s decision to take off their makeup for 1983’s Lick It Up.
They continued to be a popular live draw, but in 1996 the original quartet reformed (and they put their makeup back on) and KISS mania was reborn. In 2001, Ace Frehley left the band for a second time; Peter Criss followed in 2003 and KISS reformed with a post-reunion new lineup. In 2009, KISS released Sonic Boom, their first album of new material in 11 years. They released Monster in 2012.
It only takes one song to start a rock revolution. That trigger, in late 1991, was “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” an exhilarating blast of punk-rock confrontation by Nirvana, a scruffy trio from Seattle. “Teen Spirit,” its moshpit-party video and Nirvana’s kinetic live shows propelled their second album, Nevermind, to Number One and turned singer-guitarist-songwriter Kurt Cobain into the voice and conscience of an alternative-rock nation sick of hair metal and the conservative grip of the Reagan-Bush ‘80s.
Founded by Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in the logging town of Aberdeen, Washington, Nirvana were underground stars when they made 1989’s Bleach with drummer Chad Channing. Moving from the indie Sub Pop label to Geffen, the band – with drummer Dave Grohl – packed Cobain’s corrosive riffs, emotionally acute writing and twin passions for the Beatles and post-punk bands like the Melvins and the Pixies into Nevermind. A multi-platinum seller, it included the hits “Come As You Are” and “Lithium” and opened the mainstream gates for Green Day, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins.
In 1993, Nirvana released the caustic masterpiece, In Utero, and gave a historic performance on MTV’s Unplugged. But in April 1994, Cobain – suffering from drug addiction and severe doubts about his stardom – took his own life. Like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, Cobain was 27, in his creative prime, when he died. Also like them, he and Nirvana remain an enduring influence and challenge – proof that the right band with the right noise can change the world.