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Ann Wilson loved watching her son play "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock." Heart's lead singer is honored to have her song "Barracuda" featured in the video game, adding that it's a good way of passing music on to younger generations.
"I have a son who's 12, and when he was 10 it was hard for him," she said. "But he got into it. He got a chair, took his shirt off, got his guitar on and he got good. It was fun to see him play the songs on that game."
Heart and former Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar are headlining the second annual Walk 'n' Rock For Kids at Raley Field May 31. The walk and concert event benefits the local Hope Productions Foundation, which aims "to strengthen nonprofit organizations and benefit local children and youth programs," according to its website.
It kicks off at 8 a.m. with a 5k walk from the Capitol to Raley Field, culminating later that night with a 7:30 p.m. concert with the classic rockers. Proceeds from the entire event will be donated to seven local nonprofits benefiting youth (view list here).
Neither Heart nor Hagar are strangers to benefit concerts. Wilson said Hagar invited her band to play the show, and it's fun playing concerts with classic rockers who are still relevant.
"If we can put our music where our mouth is, that's what we're going to do: to draw attention to something," Wilson said. "We said, 'yeah' partly because we wanted to help Sammy out and partly because of the project; it should be supported by anyone and everyone who has the energy."
Ann Wilson and her sister Nancy, Heart's lead guitarist, are the only original members of the band, which formed in Canada in 1973. Though released on a once-new and obscure label, Mushroom Records, their 1976 debut "Dreamboat Annie" quickly went gold, then platinum.
"We never dreamed that would happen," said Ann, and the band has hardly slowed down.
They've sold more than 30 million albums and have six platinum and two gold-certified albums. Currently on tour in North America, Heart has been debuting material from their upcoming album "Red Velvet Car," set to be released Aug. 30.
"We chose the three (songs from the new album) that we thought would translate the best live, and surprise surprise, they're really going well," Wilson said. "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't because fans (only) go to see us perform 'Barracuda' and 'Crazy on You.' In the past, they've chosen those 'new song moments' to go buy a beer."
Though formed in Canada, Wilson considers the band a west-coast band because it currently has members in Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego. The Wilson sisters also have a close connection with the Seattle music scene, where they grew up listening to local blues rockers like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. These influences gave Heart a hard rock and metal influence in the '70s.
Heart reinvented itself in the '80s, going for the popular "arena sound," and Nancy Wilson married director and music journalist Cameron Crowe. Then in the '90s, as rock music trended away from a highly-produced digital sound to a roots revival, so did heart Heart - moving away from power ballads back to its original, harder sound.
The sisters created Seattle's Bad Animals Studio in the '90s with Steve Lawson of Steve Lawson Productions. During that era, grunge bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains recorded albums in Bad Animals' "Studio X." Ann Wilson contributed vocals to the Alice in Chains' EP "Sap."
The Wilson sisters were closely knit with the soon-to-be-famous '90s Seattle music scene depicted in Crowe's period film "Singles." But the grunge years weren't all fun and games.
"They were also very raw in the sense that we lost a few people," Wilson said. "Some of our friends didn't make it (because) people went really dark and some people died. It really brought the music community really close. We were always pulling someone back from the brink or going to someone's funeral."
Thankfully, their sisterly bond helped them through the life of a touring rock star.
"I would say we're friends first and sisters second," Wilson said. "We're just really close and we get when to back off and when to be supportive. It's just a lifelong friendship that I think will go beyond life."
1. Heart, credit: Randee St Nicholas
2. Left (Ann Wilson) Right (Nancy Wilson), credit: Randee St Nicholas
3. Ann Wilson, credit: Randee St Nicholas
4. Sammy Hagar, credit: Sammy Hagar