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Nancy Wilson is a singer, songwriter and guitarist for the rock band Heart, along with her sister, Ann Wilson.
Nancy Wilson was born on March 26, 1954 in San Francisco, California. Her mother, Lou Wilson, was a concert pianist and choir singer, and her father, John Wilson, a former Marine, was also a musician and singer who had once led the U.S. Marine Corps band. Nancy Wilson's older sister, Ann, would later become her band mate in Heart.
Due to John Wilson's military career, the family moved frequently when Nancy was a child, living near bases in Panama and Taiwan before settling in Seattle, Washington in the early 1960s.
In order to maintain a sense of home no matter where in the world they resided at any particular time, the Wilson family turned to music. "On Sunday we'd have pancakes and opera," Nancy Wilson recalled. "My dad would be conducting in the living room. We'd turn it way up and rock. There was everything from classical music to Ray Charles, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, bossa nova, and early experimental electronic music. I learned a tremendous amount early on." Wilson later remembered that she first set her heart on becoming a rock star at the age of nine, when she watched the Beatles' legendary debut performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Nancy and Ann Wilson "were Beatles fans who wanted to be the Beatles, not be their girlfriends," Wilson said.
In 1963, Ann fell seriously ill with mononucleosis and had to miss several months of school. To keep her occupied during those months, her parents bought Ann a guitar. But it was Nancy who quickly took over the instrument, showing greater talent and inclination for the guitar while Ann, also a music lover, proved to be every bit as talented and passionate a singer. Studying Mel Bay's classic book Guitar Chords and learning to play Beatles' songs by ear, by the time she reached adolescence Wilson was already a highly accomplished player of the instrument, taking especially to acoustic guitar.
While Nancy was in junior high and Ann was in high school, the Wilson girls performed in local band such as Rapunzel and Viewpoint. After her sister graduated from high school, Nancy Wilson performed often on Seattle's coffeehouse circuit as a solo artist. After graduating from high school herself in 1972, she declined an invitation to join her sister's band Heart in Vancouver, instead enrolling at tiny Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon to study art and German literature.
However, under constant prodding from her older sister to come to Vancouver and join Heart — who had already established themselves as one of Vancouver's premier bands — Wilson finally relented in 1974, leaving school to join her sister and her bandmates in Canada. "Ann and I were always going to end up playing in a band together," Nancy Wilson later recalled. "I just felt in my soul really that I needed to hold that off and experience life without Ann so that I'd have more to bring to the table when I came back."
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Originally jump-starting their career in Canada, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart broke out onto the American rock scene in the mid 1970s with hits like "Crazy on You," "Magic Man," and "Barracuda." For the next four decades, the sisters would stake their claim on the Billboard charts, selling over 35 million records and cementing themselves as one of the most enduring rock groups in music history.
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