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Far from Heartless, rock band pledges $30,000 to charity 46 years ago

This day in history: Dec. 30, 1977: Seattle band Heart returns to Vancouver, where the band’s success began

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Before they opened their first concert back in Vancouver after relocating to their home in Seattle before a packed Pacific Coliseum on this day in 1977, Heart handed over $30,000 to Children’s Hospital.

Ground was broken that year at the current site of B.C. Children’s and the City of Vancouver acknowledged the band’s generosity with a small ceremony at city hall involving Harry Rankin, the acting mayor, and the Variety Club ($30,000 in 1977 was the equivalent of $150,000 now, according to amortization.org).

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Today, of course, Heart is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, but back in 1977 the group was embroiled in a legal dispute with Mushroom Studios in Vancouver and a concert set list that was light on hits, according to reviews in the two Vancouver daily newspapers.

Acting mayor Harry Rankin leads the rock group Heart out of Vancouver City Hall after a ceremonial signing of the guest book. The group donated $30,000 to the Variety Club for the Children's Hospital Fund. December 29, 1977.
Acting mayor Harry Rankin leads the rock group Heart out of Vancouver City Hall after a ceremonial signing of the guest book. The group donated $30,000 to the Variety Club for the Children’s Hospital Fund. December 29, 1977. Photo by Deni Eagland /PNG

The band had moved to Vancouver in the early 1970s because of the Vietnam War and the group was a fixture in the Vancouver club scene before recording their breakout debut LP, Dreamboat Annie.

But a contractual dispute broke out while the band was recording its second album and the members — Ann Wilson (lead vocals) and her sister Nancy (rhythm guitar, vocals), Roger Fisher (guitar), Howard Leese (keyboards, backing vocals) and Steve Fossen (bass) — had moved back to Seattle.

The concert was their first time back in Vancouver since that split two years earlier.

“Ok, so it wasn’t technically a homecoming,” Jeani Read, The Province’s music critic, wrote. “Heart, which was recently voted a top new group in Rolling Stone Magazine’s readers poll and whose second album Little Queen has just reached double platinum status in the U.S. and Canada is actually a Seattle band.

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“But since the group kicked off its international success while based here, Vancouver and Heart have a mutual vested interest in each other. And their sold-out concert at the Coliseum proved that quite handily.”

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The love of music is what motivates Nancy (left) and Ann Wilson of Heart. Photo by Kevin Winter /Getty Images

At the Vancouver Sun, music reviewer Vaughn Palmer — before he began his almost 40 years of covering politics for the Vancouver Sun in Victoria — said that while it took the crowd some time to warm up to Heart, eventually “Vancouver’s affair with Heart resumed in glory … when 17,500 fans packed the Pacific Coliseum to see the group that left us.

“At first the crowd did not appear to appreciate that they were getting something special. No matter, Heart gave it to them and by the end won them over with a stunning buildup of their best material,” Palmer wrote.

“There’s no doubt about it: Heart are not just another successful rock band, not here anyway. Their long-awaited, long-sought headline appearance in the town that helped raise them will be remembered a long time.”

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Nancy and Ann Wilson of Heart.

Heart has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, been nominated for four Grammy Awards, and hits include classic-rock staples Magic Man, Crazy on You, Barracuda, Kick It Out and, yes, Heartless. Heart ranks 57th on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock, and is No. 49 on Ultimate Classic Rock’s top-100 classic-rock artists.

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But Palmer marvelled at how the “roughness and innocence of the days, not so long ago, on the Vancouver-Seattle club circuit still tinges Heart.

“They are still a young group, saddled with more responsibility than many ‘green’ bands,” Palmer wrote. “Sales of their first album, Dreamboat Annie, put them in league with the top half-dozen acts on the continent yet they are only now gaining the seasoning and catalogue of material needed to match the strength of their commercials peers.”

Moreover, the legal hassles with their old record company, Mushroom, stripped the group’s second album of some of its best material, Palmer continued.

“Could any of the other three groups that sold out the Coliseum this year — Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart — have managed as good a show on the basis of one promising debut album and a semi-disastrous followup?”

Heart played two encores that night, including Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll.

“Most former (bar) bands would have discarded such a remainder from their club days, but Heart know that they needn’t,” Palmer wrote. “As long as Ann Wilson sings it, there will be no confusing theirs with any other. She really pulled it out on this one, finally sweeping all the music away until only her piercing cries remained.”

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Noting that CBS, Heart’s new record company, had added $3,000 to Heart’s $30,000 donation to Children’s Hospital, Palmer said: “Sorry cynics but that gift, like the show, was very much an act of the heart.”

With research from Postmedia librarian Carolyn Soltau

[email protected]

x.com/gordmcintyre

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