Heart: the gospel according to Ann Wilson

Heart’s Ann Wilson on stage in the 1970s
Heart\u2019s Ann Wilson: no fan of Donald Trump
(Image: © Bob Riha, Jr.\/Getty Images)

From hippie chick to MTV icon and back again, Ann Wilson of Heart has spent four decades in the limelight. Here’s her view of the world and what might happen if she were in charge.

Global warming is real…

We are ruining our environment with the way that things are being run, and it’s thoughtless. Whenever I drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles and see all of those cattle death farms along the way, it makes me realise how we’re killing so much of the planet raising cattle just so that people can eat hamburgers. The methane generated by that process is what’s really wrecking the environment more than anything else. People should stop burying their head in the sand and stop thinking that it doesn’t affect them.

Politicians don’t care about the big issues…

If the current political discourse is anything to go by, nothing is going to change. Things have become so juvenile, coarse even. People are fascinated by Donald Trump because he’s a weird, reality-TV character. The President Of The United States is the most powerful man in the world, but Trump behaves like a teenage boy. The world under that man would be a very scary place indeed. It all seems to be about social orders, not a mindful conversation about who’s best to govern.

There will be a female US President…

I’m not saying that it will be Hillary Clinton, because personally I favour Bernie Sanders. But I absolutely think that a female will be handed the keys to the White House, just like I think that there will be a gay president. It can only be a matter of time. When Ronald Reagan, a former actor, got the top job it kicked the door wide open. Over half of the people in this country are women so, believe me, it’s coming.

Ann Wilson: “The world under Donald Trump would be a scary place.”

Ann Wilson: “The world under Donald Trump would be a scary place.”
(Image: © Johnny Louis/FilmMagic)

The gun debate isn’t going away…

We are seeing so many of those sickening shooting incidents, often involving kids but always at the cost of innocent lives. Obama has tried to tackle gun law but his hands are tied. To do so he would have to amend the right to bear arms, a part of the Constitution set in place after the Revolutionary War. And even assuming that could happen they’d somehow have to police the new rules. At this point, even though the rest of the planet just laughs at America, I don’t think it’s possible to take away people’s guns. Something has to be figured out, that’s for sure. The only way it could be fixed is through the way our children are raised in the future; education all about those dangers and the correct uses for firearms.

I believe in corporal punishment…

I’m undecided about using it at school, but at home a spanking is a good thing, definitely. I have two children who are grown up now, and I believe that if nothing else will change the backdrop a slap on the butt almost always brings us to our senses. It’s not a sin. But that’s a million miles away from child beating. If a kid is out of control and you talk, talk, talk, and that behaviour doesn’t change, then what are you supposed to do? Let it go? No, you exercise your right as the elder.

Bullying ruins lives…

Kids can be so unkind to one another. When I was very young I got bullied for having a stutter. It scars for life, causing all kinds of unhappiness and insecurity in later life. I really admire Lady Gaga’s dedication to this cause. With her foundation Born This Way she has really put her money and her actions where her mouth is, because it’s a genuine problem, especially now that being gay is an open matter and more accepted. But in some sections of society homosexuality is still regarded as a big sin. Kids are bullied – sometimes to suicide. Parents must teach their kids that people are people.

Faith gets a bad rap…

…but I’m really not a fan of organised religion. When you average out each of the denominations together, they all seem to say pretty much the same thing. I don’t begrudge anyone for being Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or anything. If those beliefs make people happy and get them through life, then go for it. But there’s so much more to life and being a good person than following what’s in the Bible or the Koran.

Reality TV and talent shows? Axe ’em…

I don’t watch them, and from what little I have seen I don’t like them. On Planet Ann they would all be banned. It’s the so-called ‘talent shows’ that annoy me the most, because people have so much time to prepare for one performance in front of the cameras – without competition. Whether they win or lose, it doesn’t mean that they are talented. And if they do lose, their career is over. It’s heartbreaking to watch. Those kind of shows are more about ratings than about true talent.

Selfies – enough already!

I understand why a fan might want a photograph with me if we meet at a concert or somewhere in my daily life, but I’m still getting used to seeing a whole sea of cellphones looking at me during a show. As a performer there are few things I dislike more than looking out and seeing people coming to the front of the stage, turning their back on you and taking a selfie with the show as a backdrop. Sometimes there are all of these people in the front rows taking pictures of one another and not paying any attention to the music. I find that infuriating and a bit disrespectful.

The ‘Size Zero’ debates winds me up…

Why does the media continue to tell us that women must be waif-like? It’s such a screwed-up message to send out to young girls – that unless they can squeeze themselves into a certain dress or present themselves in a particular way then they’re not real or they will never get anywhere in life; they’re not good enough to be called beautiful.

Performers such as Adele are doing a huge service to females in the entertainment world, because she has such a great attitude about being a real woman. She’s gorgeous and really talented, and she has a really good attitude about being herself. If you ask me, that makes Adele even more beautiful than the best-looking, skinny model that you could ever see.

We are way too obsessed with celebrities…

What we’re becoming preoccupied by is the image of these people, and not their real personalities. With the really big rock bands, like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles or the Rolling Stones, we thought we knew their personalities, but we didn’t know about the real people. What we loved was the image, the façade; what they wanted us to believe about them. Now everything’s all laid out for us. It’s too simple to access. Thanks to social media we know what our heroes ate for breakfast this morning. I’m from the generation that cared about the music, and I miss that. Were we lucky enough to discover some detail about a star’s life we’d go: “Wow, cool.” Nobody fussed over it.

Let’s keep the institution of marriage alive…

I became married last April, but I’m aware that divorce rates are rising across the world. I’ve read that half of the weddings in America are doomed to failure. And it’s a shame. I’d like to think that marriage still has a future. I hope that partners will continue to want to support one another in love because being one with somebody, forging and maintaining a commitment to that one special person, is a beautiful thing. I’d hate to see that go.

Auto-tune? It’s the work of the devil…

They’re a pet hate of mine. I’d really lay down the law on those things. I’ve no objection to singers using them when recording commercial jingles, but when it starts masquerading as art… that’s when I lose my rag. My biggest objection to auto-tune is that it makes everybody sound the same, and I hate anonymity. Being a singer is all about being human, having flaws and inflections that I guess some might choose to see as imperfection. Take them away and you remove the person’s identity. If it were up to me let’s send them all to the bottom of the ocean.

Being a musician is a ridiculous way to earn a living…

If you want to pay your bills by being a so-called rock star then good luck with that, because the tides of success come and go. If you’re really smart with your money – like Mick Jagger, for instance – it doesn’t really matter if you’ve a hit record or not. The industry changes very suddenly. One moment everybody likes you, and the next hip-hop is in. You have to realise that you might not have such a happy day tomorrow, especially with your money. I know that a whole lot of rock stars are not good with their money – I know that I wasn’t. On the whole we are dysfunctional people and we make mistakes. I’m lucky that my finances are more stable now than they were when I was single.

It’s been a bad year for deaths, but rock’n’roll will survive…

It’s been a very tough year. Month after month we’ve lost so much musical talent, and just when you begin to hope that it’s all over the radio and newspapers tell us of another sickening casualty. But the way I see it, these people are just visiting rock’n’roll – they don’t make rock’n’roll itself. They come through, they leave their mark on it and they move on. That’s the circle of human existence.

I know that it’s only a matter of time before it’s my own turn to leave, but I don’t really care if people remember me or not because I won’t be here! All I hope is that what I leave behind will have helped in some way; I’m often told a certain song of ours [Heart’s] was a comfort when a parent dies in a car crash or falls into a coma. That’s rewarding.

We were very blessed to have Prince and David Bowie and the rest in our lives, but they were visitors and now they’re on another journey. I know in my heart that rock music will survive, though it probably won’t be in the same format as it stands today.