February 1976: Heart Releases "Dreamboat Annie"

Heart (Ann Wilson & Nancy Wilson) at time of first album release Hollywood, CA - 1976; Various Locations; Mark Sullivan 70's Rock Archive (Photo by Mark Sullivan/Contour by Getty Images)
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(Mark Sullivan/Contour by Getty Images)

When Canadian rock band Heart released debut album Dreamboat Annie in America, it introduced sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson to the world. With Ann on lead vocals and Nancy on guitar, Heart brought together hard-driving FM rock with a sweet, melodic sensibility not often found paired with such heavy riffs.

"We came from a sort of romantic, 'rose colored glasses' background, but also from a family that was strong and capable, a military family," Nancy Wilson told Best Classic Bands in 2017. "Plus there were two of us—two women—in the front-and-center role, in a big live rock band, with men and women playing together. That was the difference between us and a lot of other female rock acts. We weren’t afraid to be romantic gypsies. We were also coming from a kind of folk-rock ethic, not unlike what Led Zeppelin did, except with two women in front. That was our ideology. I think a lot of girls felt they had to try to put the toughest appearance forward in order to sing and play rock guitar. We just had this other place we came from, where we didn’t go into it feeling like we had to compete in the world of men. We started in folk music and made our way to rock."

Released in America on February 14, 1976, Dreamboat Annie was initially a regional hit in the Seattle area, breaking out wide when "Crazy on You" was issued as the first single in the US. Generating radio play across the country, the song would peak at #35 on the Hot 100 on June 5, 1976.

The album's second single, "Magic Man," had already generated some heat when it was first released in Canada. Dropped as a single in America in July 1976, the tune would soar up the charts en route to becoming Heart's first top 10 hit in the US. It peaked at #9 on November 6, 1976. The #1 song in America that week: Steve Miller Band's "Rock'n Me."

For the third single from Dreamboat Annie, Heart showed off the band's softer side with the acoustic ballad title track. Just missing the top 40 when it peaked at #42 in early February 1977, the song would make a top 20 showing on the Adult Contemporary chart, reaching #17.

America had propelled the folk-inspired band from Vancouver into the upper echelons of the rock and roll scene of the mid-'70s. Dreamboat Annie the album would go on to crash the top 10, peaking at #7 on October 30, 1976. The #1 album in the US that week: Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.

"People would say that to us all the time: 'You’re pioneers for women in rock!' We were like, 'Uh, okay,'" Nancy Wilson said back in 2017. "We just did what we wanted to do. But we also happened to have a strong mother in our lives. She was a fiercely independent, self-educated woman from a military background. Both my parents were pretty enlightened. They encouraged us to follow our bliss, as they used to put it. They gave us permission to get out there and do that, without a lot of gender specifics. But [being a woman] did make it harder on many levels. It was harder to be taken seriously. 'See, I actually play the guitar—it’s not a prop. I’m actually doing this for real. We’re not just ornamental up there—we’re the creators and the front people.' It was interesting to see how shocking we appeared to everyone else, when we were just doing what felt natural for us."

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