The VH1 Rock Honors: Finally, some respect for Heart

Tonight on VH1 (9/8c), the Rock Honors might actually rock. I’m not talking about Ozzy Osbourne or ZZ Top (that has to be the most Z’s ever in a list of honorees) or Genesis — definitely not Genesis. I’m talking about Heart.

Ann and Nancy Wilson have been rocking my world for as long as I can remember. One summer, when I was about 9, I checked out all the Heart LPs from the public library and lovingly made tapes of them, doing my best to reproduce the album lettering as well as the sound.

Yeah, fine: I’m old. But if you haven’t given Heart a listen, you really should. You might have seen them on The L Word, when they performed "Crazy On You" in season 2. Isn’t it weird when two of your favorite things collide like that? Jenny was entranced, and so was I.

Heart has always faced considerable discrimination. They were too early for the riot grrrl movement and rocked way too hard to catch the ’70s folk wave (even though Nancy could play the acoustic guitar just as well as Joni Mitchell). They weren’t quite metal, but they were far from easy listening. Nobody knew what to do with them, and nobody knew what to make of the fact that right out in front — on lead guitar and lead vocals — were two women.

The discrimination even took a weird turn: The supposedly "saucy" cover of their debut album, Dreamboat Annie (Bare shoulders! Heavens forfend!), was enough to lead some publicity-hungry critics and tabloids to conclude that Ann and Nancy were lovers, not sisters. The song "Barracuda" was a response to that press mess — talk about making lemonade from lesbians. Er, lemons.

Heart got a little schlocky in the ’80s, but who didn’t? I saw them in concert a few years ago, and they still rock — hearing them do Led Zeppelin is a mind-blowing experience. They seem to have aged quite happily; Nancy pens movie scores too (her husband is Cameron Crowe), and Ann still fills notebook after notebook with song lyrics.

So, yeah, I’ll be tuning in for the Rock Honors thing. On a related note, the VH1 website is currently featuring a photo flipbook of "rocker chicks." Last time I tried to flip through it, though, I couldn’t get past Stevie Nicks — not that there’s really any reason to. She pretty much begins and ends any list of rocker chicks anyway. Well, she and Heart.

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