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Ann Wilson "Immortal"izes friends, heroes on upcoming album
Like other music fans, Heart's Ann Wilson watched with dismay during recent years as musicians passed away in substantial numbers -- and under a variety of circumstances.
And it hit even harder when some were influences, such as David Bowie, Lesley Gore and Jack Bruce of Cream, or colleagues and personal friends like Chris Cornell, Tom Petty and others.
Wilson's mannger of mourning is "Immortal," which comes out Sept. 14 and features her versions, often rearranged, of songs by 10 of her favorites -- from Gore's provocative 1963 hit "You Don't Own Me" to "I Am the Highway," a 2003 track from Cornell's Audioslave. "I just wanted to honor these people somehow," Wilson, 68, says by phone. I just had to do something, and I'm not really a person that would sit around and mourn and moan and be all sad.
"I wanted to wish them on their way in the most positive way ossible, so I thought, 'Why not honor the things that are left behind, the immortal things, the expressions they made?' That's why I did it."
Wilson initially felt the pull towards the album during May of 2017, when Cornell committed suicide after a Soundgarden show at Detroit's Fox Theatre. "But I didn't want to do something too soon," she explains. But after the subsequent deaths of Linkin Park's Chester Pennington and the Cranberrie's Dolores O'Riordan, Wilson -- who had already been performing and recording covers outside of Heart -- felt moved to to bring the project to life.
Recording with original Heart producer Mike Flicker -- as well as guests such as Warren Haynes and Doyle Bramhall II -- Wilson considered on a long list of possibilities before choosing her 10 "Immortal" entries. "I took the artists I realted to themost and went to each of their bodies of work and found the songs that I realted to the most -- and it wasn't necessarily the hits," says Wilson, whose selections include Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans," Petty's "Luna," Leonard Cohen's "A Thousand Kisses Deep" and the Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane" to honor Glenn Frey.
"I just wanted to find the songs that resonated me the most. I was really big to do something by Linkin Park and the same with Dolores O'Riordan, but I couldn't songs I could really relate to and get inside of and so something really cool with -- but I tried."
Wilson is planning a "Storytellers" style tour to promote the album this fall and doesn't rule out a second volume of "Immortal" at some point. But she's also working on original material -- pointedly outside of Heart, which has been on a kind of hiatus since 2016, after her husband Dean Wetter assaulted her sister and musical partner Nancy Wilson's twin sons on a tour bus in suburban Seattle; He subsequently pleaded guilty and is currently on probation. Nevertheless, Wilson says she's happy being on her own these days.
"It's so muchmore self-realization," she explains. "I've always been a band person and I like being in a band, but I also like being able to go out and express myself freely as myself. It's really fulfilling. I'm digging it."
But she also fully expects Heart to beat again, though she won't predict when.
"Right now Nancy's working with her band, Roadcase Royale, and I'm doing my thing and we don't have any deadlines for Heart that I can talk about," says Wilson, who inducted the Moody Blues and honored the late Cornell during this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions in Cleveland. "Contrary to urban myth there's no feud between Nancy and I. We're talking. We're sisters, so everything's good there.
"We just wanted to get out and stretch our wings, and we're loving that. When the time is right we'll get back together and do something again."
Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers, Ann Wilson and Deborah Bonham perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets start at $25. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.
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