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Friday song: "Alone" by Heart
A symphonic version reveals how flexible a great song can be
By Kent Anderson
As the center of the band Heart, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson blow the world away every time they step into the spotlight — whether they are elevating Led Zeppelin or singing a version of one of their own classics. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
When it comes to power, accomplishment, and artistry, there are few who compete with the Wilson sisters. They were Army brats, and to provide stability to a family often uprooted and moved, their father would devote Sundays to music — everything from Motown to opera.
Heart has achieved major success multiple times, from the 1970s to the present. The Wilsons are both excellent performers — Nancy is a great guitarist and vocalist (you might be surprised), and Ann’s powerful vocals are legendary.
The song “Alone” is one of the group’s biggest and greatest hits. Written by the songwriting team behind Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Cindy Lauper’s “True Colors,” its history holds some interest. The writing duo — Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly — recorded the song themselves for an album they were signed to make under the name i-Ten. It was not a commercial success, but the song “Alone” stood out, and stayed on their minds.
Years later, when they heard Heart was looking for a power ballad for their new album, the songwriters dusted off the song, shifted some lyrics and melody lines at the beginning to smooth some rough edges they found, and presented it to Heart’s producer at the time, Ron Nevison. He loved it, and the rest is history.
The song’s dynamics lend themselves to various performance settings. It works as a rock power ballad, an acoustic tug on heartstrings, or, as below, an orchestral number. I chose to feature an orchestral arrangement.