Rock Reads: Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll by Ann & Nancy Wilson with Charles R. Cross

Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki

Anyone who's ever rocked out to "Barracuda," "Magic Man" or "Crazy on You" knows that Ann and Nancy Wilson, the front ladies of Heart, can kick sonic butt with the best of them. In fact, in the very early pages of Kicking & Dreaming the sisters reveal that they long ago tired of dim-witted journalists quizzing them about how it feels to be a "woman in rock;" the girls saw the Beatles the first time they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and made a decision right then and there. Unlike their friends who dreamed of marrying a Beatle though, the Wilsons chose a similarly improbable dream: to be the Beatles. Here is the story of how that dream came true. There's a bit of a girly quality that comes through on Kicking & Dreaming since the writers, as with their songwriting, are not afraid to show their vulnerable sides. First guitars are discussed but so are first kisses and it's absolutely charming the way the Wilsons have a bit of fun revealing naοve but prescient aspects of their adolescent rock star dreams. While this type of fixation, obsession even, could be very harmful to the overall wellbeing of certain youths, it actually was a stabilizing factor for the Wilsons who never lost sight of their goal as they moved around the country constantly as military kids and coped with a very loving father who also happened to be a functional alcoholic. Heart fans know that Ann began struggling with a weight problem in the '80s; they could see it on album covers, in magazine photo spreads and on MTV videos. What fans didn't know was that Ann had also been a little chubby as a teen and was bullied and ridiculed mercilessly because of it. One thing the reader will notice as the book goes on though is that the Wilsons never carp about the bad stuff; they just lay out the details and tell the story. About the first third of Kicking & Dreaming tells the Wilsons' story pre-Heart then subsequent chapters chronicle what was going on basically album-by-album; Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen, the re-issue of Magazine, and so on. Yes there are tales of champagne and cocaine but this isn't a Motley Crue bio so don't expect too much debauchery; do expect to hear about events like Nancy's wedding to Cameron Crowe (and later to her current husband) and humorous asides about things such as the "gherkin pickle wagon." The story comes current with the last chapter touching briefly on the work the girls put into their recent career retrospective Strange Euphoria and the recording of the upcoming new release Fanatic. Heart has a long track record of producing songs that are exceptionally endearing for their fans and Kicking & Dreaming proves to be no different.

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