When Ann and Nancy Wilson first approached Charles Cross about collaborating on a book, the veteran rock writer laid down the rules.
“When they came to me and we talked about doing this, one of the first things I said to them is ‘I won’t tackle this project unless you’ll tell everything, that nothing is put aside. You have to talk about the most painful things, the hardest things to admit and that’s the only way the book will work. And they did that,” Cross says about “Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll.”
The book chronicles the lives, trials and tribulations of the sisters behind Heart. After telling the stories of bands like Led Zeppelin and Nirvana in his previous books, Cross says in an interview with Seattle Sounds the Wilsons were most deserving of attention.
“There’s almost not a single other band that are still on the road playing that have a history that goes back that far,” Cross says. “Theirs is one of the great untold stories in rock and roll.”
Cross and the Wilsons offer up intimate details of the sisters’ lives, from their early years traveling the world as military brats to their sexual escapades.
But Cross says it’s mostly about the challenges of two women breaking through in a male-dominated world.
“When the band first formed, the other guys in the band expected them to cook and clean for them,” Cross says. “It’s a fascinating time in music when everything is shifting but they absolutely were some of the very first people to cross those gender lines in rock and roll.”
The book delves deep into the troubled relationships that inspired some of their biggest hits, among them “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man,” both written by Ann about her first serious romance with Michael Fischer, who would ultimately become the band’s domineering manager.
It also reveals some of the dirty little secrets of rock and roll at the time.
“Literally their promo guy would go into a radio station, they’d shake hands with the DJ, then the promo guy would say ‘Go to the car and wait’ and he would pull out cocaine or promise some kind of sexual favor to the DJ. And sure enough Heart suddenly became successful in that city,” Cross says.
Cross says one of the biggest questions the sisters are always asked is ‘What’s it like to be a woman in rock?’ He says there were plenty of times it was “horrible.”
“They were either described as too sexual by many people if they actually moved around on stage in a way that was at all remotely suggestive, and for many other people they were not sexual enough,” Cross says.
“They were subject to cat calls, they were harassed, they were sexually harassed by promoters, by other bands that were on the bills, sometimes by people involved in the industry.”
Ultimately, the Wilson’s succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The sisters have sold over 30 million albums and continue going strong with the upcoming release of their newest record “Fanatic.”
Cross says he’s happy with how much they revealed in the book.
“They responded and they told me stuff that I couldn’t even imagine was part of their background and their history and I tried to put it together in a way that gives somebody an insight into the soul and the heart of what it’s like to be a musician,” Cross says.