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Barracuda by Heart
Album: Little QueenReleased: 1977Charted:
This was written by Ann and Nancy Wilson together with guitarist Roger Fisher and drummer Michael DeRosier. According to the band, the song is a statement about the record industry in general. It was written at a time when there was friction between the band and their label. Little Queen was the first album Heart released for the CBS-Portrait label. Their old label, Mushroom Records, sued the band and in 1978 released Magazine, an album made up of previously recorded material that Heart did not want released. (Thanks to Sovereign Records for this information.)
The Wilson sisters revealed in various interviews that the song was about Heart's anger towards an ad Mushroom Records placed in trade publications implying that Ann and Nancy were lesbians having an affair (see the full ad and read more about it
). The song focuses on Ann's rage towards a promoter who came up to her after a concert in Detroit asking how her "lover" was. She initially thought he was talking about her then-boyfriend - band member Michael Fisher. After the promoter revealed he was talking about her sister Nancy Wilson, Ann became angry and went back to her hotel room to write the song. Nancy put suitably angry music to the words to complete the song comparing the sleazy side of music to a dangerous fish.
This song can be heard in the movies Wag the Dog (1997), Charlie's Angles (2000), Roll Bounce (2005), You Again (2010), The Campaign (2012) and Identity Thief (2013).
TV series to feature the song include The Sopranos, Chuck and My Name Is Earl. It was also used in a 2009 episode of Glee where it was performed by Lea Michele and Adam Lambert.
Fergie performed this with Heart at the 2008 Idol Gives Back charity special on American Idol. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
During the 2008 presidential campaign, this song was used as the as the unofficial theme song for Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. The Alaska governor originally earned the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" when she played basketball in high school, because of her fierce competitiveness. The name was revived after Palin became mayor of her hometown, Wasilla, in 1996 and it was played at the 2008 National Republican Convention, after she gave a speech. The next day, Ann and Nancy Wilson issued a statement that said: "The Republican campaign did not ask for permission to use the song, nor would they have been granted that permission. We have asked the Republican campaign publicly not to use our music. We hope our wishes will be honored."
Their wishes were not honored, and the song was played at the convention that night after their presidential nominee John McCain spoke and Palin joined him on stage. As the Republican campaign pointed out, they had obtained the proper performance rights to the song and were under no obligation to get further permission to use it (they would have if they wanted to use it in a commercial or video).
With no legal recourse, the Wilson sisters retaliated in the media, telling Entertainment Weekly: "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."
The song's co-writer Roger Fisher was also anti-Palin, but he saw things differently, telling Reuters he was "thrilled" that the song was being used as it was a win-win situation. He explained that while Heart gets publicity and royalties, the Republicans benefit from "the ingenious placement of a kick-ass song." He added that he would use some of the proceeds in a donation to the Obama campaign, and thus, "the Republicans are now supporting Obama."