Was there ever a song that described an antagonist like Heart’s “Barracuda”? With lyrics jabbing at the lowest of the low and most conniving–a snake in the grass, ready to attack–I don’t think so.
There’s a legend behind the song’s background. It states the lyrics, which were penned by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, worked as a statement regarding the record industry. Division and disagreements existed between Heart and their corporate management. Their label, Mushroom Records, committed a disgraceful act, publicizing implicit ads stating that the two sisters were really lesbians having an affair.
After a promoter approached Ann after a show, asking about her “lover,” she believed he was speaking of her boyfriend and band mate, Michael Fisher. When the promoter explained he was speaking of her sister Nancy Wilson, Ann grew livid. The song was written and Nancy and the rest of the band matched Ann’s anger with vengeful venting melodies. Since then, the song has gone on to become a complete classic that’s recognized anywhere. It has shown up in films like Wag the Dog and Charlie’s Angels. Even Sarah Palin was inspired by Heart’s fierceness. In 2008, during the presidential campaign, she used the track as her unofficial anthem, as she was dubbed “Sarah Barracuda” in high school, due to her competitive spirit in sports. But the Wilson sisters, weren’t having that, and after asking for the Republican party to cease use of their song, they went on to explain why they were against Palin’s decision:
“Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song ‘Barracuda’ no longer be used to promote her image. The song ‘Barracuda’ was written in the late ’70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there’s irony in Republican strategists’ choice to make use of it there.”
We can identify with Palin’s adoration for the song. We cherish it too. But it’s the Wilson sister’s spirit and set of morals that have us hooked on the band as a whole. When we hear “Barracuda,” we think of sheroes who’ve made it their mission to combat generalizations of society. We hear women who aren’t afraid to use their voice, and through them, we aren’t afraid to use ours either.