When Ann Wilson decided to include Lesley Gore’s empowerment anthem “You Don’t Own Me” on her new album, Immortal, she “wanted to rock it up, make it really heavy.” But these #MeToo and Black Lives Matter times have already insured Wilson’s version of the 1963 hit, featuring a guest appearance by Warren Haynes and premiering exclusively below, packs a more potent punch.
“I think that song has come to be way more universal now,” Wilson tells Billboard. “It could be the anthem of anyone who wants respect, anyone at all, not just women. I think we’re in a time where we’re having a discourse now as a culture about who people really are and how it’s important to accept people, and so I thought the song really fits. I think it’s really meaningful in today’s world.”
The Immortal album is full of meaning for Wilson, of course. The 10-track set, recorded with original Heart producer Mike Flicker, is the Heart singer’s tribute to friends, colleagues and heroes who have passed away during the past couple of years, including Tom Petty (“Luna”), David Bowie (“I’m Afraid of Americans”), Chris Cornell (Audioslave’s “I Am the Highway”), Glenn Frey (the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane”) and others. “I just wanted to honor these people somehow,” says Wilson, who’s currently on tour with Jeff Beck, Paul Rodgers and Deborah Bonham. “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 possible, 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.”
Immortal’s 10 tracks, of course, come from a long list of possibilities, and Wilson acknowledges it was hard to pare things down for the album, which comes out Sept. 14. “I took the artists I related to the most and went to each of their bodies of work and found the songs that I related to the most — and it wasn’t necessarily the hits,” says Wilson. “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 do 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, while Heart remains on the hiatus it began during 2016, after her husband Dean Wetter assaulted her sister and musical partner Nancy Wilson’s twin sons on a tour bus in suburban Seattle. Wetter subsequently pleaded guilty and is currently on probation, while Wilson expects Heart to beat again — but with no concrete plans right now.
“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,” Wilson says. “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.”