A Concert With Some Heart: Ann Wilson's Atlantic City concert will highlight the classic rock music she loves
Ann Wilson was in the music room of her Seattle home and was looking for some inspiration for a song.
As she looked out the window, Wilson spotted her sheepdog running around under the trees of an orchard adjacent to her property.
It was the spring of 1978 and Wilson’s band Heart, which included her sister and songwriting partner Nancy Wilson, had already experienced success.
The band’s debut album, "Dreamboat Annie," made it to No. 7 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart in 1976. That was followed in 1977 by the "Little Queen" album, which made it to No. 9 on the albums chart and featured the hit single “Barracuda,” which reached No. 11 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
But now it was time to start writing songs for the next album and the pressure was on from the record company. Looking out the window that day, Ann Wilson noticed her dog chasing a butterfly, to no avail.
“Here was my dog trying to chase this butterfly and she couldn’t catch it. But she had this incredible stamina. She really believed she could catch that butterfly,” Wilson said. “She kept it up and kept it up and kept it up and pretty soon I thought, ‘That’s an amazing metaphor for me trying to find an idea for a song. Or for somebody who is chasing love or somebody who has a dream or a goal.’”
The song that Wilson wrote that day was “Dog & Butterfly,” which would be the title track of Heart’s fourth studio album, released in October 1978. The album would spend 36 weeks on the charts and peak at No. 17 on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart. It would featured two Top 40 U.S. singles, “Dog & Butterfly,” which got to No. 34; and “Straight On,” which peaked at No. 15.
The album itself was a “theme” album, which was popular in that era. Side one was the “Dog” side and featured more hard rock tunes. Side two was the “Butterfly” side and featured mostly ballads.
“To be fair, as a songwriter, when you’re really into writing songs, you think every one is special," Wilson said. "You think, ‘Wow! This is the best thing I’ve every written!’ But I do like that song (“Dog & Butterfly”). It has stood the test of time. I think it’s still good rock poetry and it’s uplifting. People really like that song.”
Heart would go on to many more successes over its four-decade history, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
But these days, Ann Wilson is going solo. She’ll spend much of 2017 touring the country and presenting “an Ann Wilson show,” which will make a stop for one performance at the Tropicana Showroom in Atlantic City, Aug. 19.
“I know that people who come to see my show want to hear Heart songs and there are a few Heart songs in it,” Wilson said. “But when they come see my show, they are going to see me doing what I do best and that’s singing great songs. I’ve paid really special attention to honoring the Heart legacy, but also to making a show that’s really great for people to see. One that says something, means something, is fun and looks great.”
In choosing what songs to include in her show, Wilson starts with a big wish list and then picks the ones that really work for her and have meaning in the present.
Wilson’s setlist on this tour has included songs done by Elvis Presley, the Who, Buffalo Springfield, the Animals, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix.
“There is a huge love of classic rock out there and there are some great songs that have great messages,” Wilson said. “I wanted to include a collection of them together that would be exciting for people to hear my way. It kind of takes a big step outside a Heart show and it becomes my show.”