The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) is pleased to announce the song induction for the rock classic, “What About Love,” which rose to international fame as one of the most successful hits for the band Heart. The song was one of three written by Toronto bandmates Brian Allen and Sheron Alton, with Jim Vallance; and although it was infamously left off of Toronto’s third album, it would ultimately become one of their greatest songwriting achievements.
The song induction will air on Global Television’s The Morning Show on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, presented by the CSHF to the team of Allen, Alton, and Vallance, along with a special appearance by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ann Wilson. As part of the virtual presentation, Toronto-based singer-songwriter SATE will perform the iconic song live from El Mocambo.
“‘What About Love’ goes to show that there’s a story behind every great song,” said Nicholas Fedor, Director of the Hall of Fame. The song not only changed the trajectory for Heart, marking their first hit out of the gate with Capitol Records, but ironically became a hit after Toronto disbanded. Jim Vallance continued his highly successful hit-writing partnership with Bryan Adams, Aerosmith and many others.
Allen, Alton, and Vallance co-wrote the song in 1982 to fit a title that Vallance suggested, and the band recorded a demo, but later voted to leave it off their third album. Allen remembers, “We had an overage of repertoire… and thought it didn’t fit with the others… it was all about fit.” The band members voted on ballots tossed into a hat, and “What About Love” didn’t make the cut.
Vallance explained, “I thought it was quite a good song, but unfortunately they decided to leave it off the album. So the demo sat on a shelf for a few years.”
Fast-forward three years later to 1985. As Allen told FYI Music News, “I played the demo for ‘What About Love’ to Mike McCarty, then at ATV Music Publishing. He stopped the cassette partway through and said, ‘I think I could work with this one.’” McCarty sent it off to the producer for the rock group Heart, who happened to be in search of a strong single for their next album. Since Heart’s first album had been produced in Canada, and the Wilson sisters had lived in Vancouver for several years, the song from three Canadian songwriters was an easy fit.
Heart recorded a version that was very close to the original demo, and as Ann Wilson described it, “My job was to take it and bring out the strength in it.” And she did just that. Wilson’s powerhouse vocal, with an especially emotive chorus and heartfelt cry, “What about love?” re-plays in the listener’s mind long after the song ends.
The single enjoyed 12 weeks on the Top 40 charts, and became Heart’s first Top 10 hit in five years. In addition to garnering BMI and (SOCAN precursor organization) PROCAN awards, “What About Love” catapulted the multi-platinum selling album Heart to great success, as it earned a Grammy nomination, and rose to No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart in Canada.
As Brian Allen later laughed, “One of the smartest dumb things I ever did was voting that song out of the album!”
Toronto themselves didn’t release the original “What About Love” until 2002, when Solid Gold Records added the track as a bonus on their re-issued Get It On Credit album. Guitarists Brian Allen and Sheron Alton had four platinum albums with Toronto. Allen is a sought-after producer, has been an executive with SOCAN, a major-label A&R Vice President, and currently serves as a Director on the Board of the Country Music Association of Ontario. The multiple award-winning Jim Vallance is one of Canada’s pre-eminent songwriters, and is the composer behind numerous international hits with Bryan Adams, and other top artists.
Following the virtual induction presentation on Sept. 23, “What About Love” will take its place in the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame’s permanent home at the National Music Centre in Calgary, which features a celebrated catalogue of inducted songs that fans can listen to, in addition to displays, exclusive artifacts, and one-of-a-kind memorabilia celebrating Canada’s greatest songwriters and Inductees.