Brian Douglas Wilson (born June 20, 1942, in Hawthorne, California) is an American pop musician, best known as a founding member of and the main producer, composer, and arranger for The Beach Boys. Although changing trends in music sometimes rendered Wilson's earlier work unfashionable, his reputation has since been restored and he is now widely acknowledged as one of the most significant and innovative popular music composers of the 20th century. He is widely considered by many to be a musical and artistic genius who was ahead of his time in many respects.
Wilson showed an early talent for music and quickly developed into a highly skilled singer, songwriter, arranger and musician, despite almost total deafness in his right ear.
Early influences included The Four Freshmen and Chuck Berry, among others. Brian was a great admirer of Phil Spector and his studio work, and considered Spector both a mentor and one of his chief rivals. (The two collaborated on one song, which was never completed; the backing track was later used for a public service announcement, featuring The Blossoms. Brian released it in 1964 as "Don't Hurt My Little Sister".)
Wilson was a perfectionist in the studio, and often upset the other members of the Beach Boys with this incessant drive for perfection. Though one of the first users of an eight-channel multitrack tape recorder, he shunned stereophonic sound, preferring (as Spector did) to work in monaural — not because of his partial deafness, but because he realised stereo gave an incomplete 'sound picture' if the listener wasn't directly between the speakers.
After forming The Beach Boys in the early 1960s with his brothers Carl and Dennis, his cousin Mike Love and schoolfriend Al Jardine, Wilson steered the group to huge success around the world, and they scored a string of international hits between 1962 and 1966, including pop classics such as "Surfin' USA", "Fun, Fun, Fun", "I Get Around", "Help Me Rhonda", "California Girls", and "Good Vibrations". He also produced records for other artists, including Glen Campbell and The Honeys, but with nowhere near the success he had with the Beach Boys. He also co-wrote many of the biggest hits for Jan and Dean during this period.
Until 1967, the international success and popularity of the Beach Boys put them among the world's biggest acts of the time, such as The Beatles, who later cited Wilson's work as a major influence. Wilson in turn considered the Beatles his other chief rivals, though he and fellow bassist-keyboardist Paul McCartney, born only two days earlier than himself, became friends.
Wilson's creativity reached its apex during the mid-1960s with the Pet Sounds album (which, according to Paul McCartney, was a direct inspiration for The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), and many critics and music polls have named it one of the greatest pop albums ever recorded.
This was immediately followed by their biggest chart success, the million-selling #1 hit single "Good Vibrations", which set new standards for pop-rock production and is still regarded as one of the seminal pop recordings of the era. Wilson then began work on a new album, originally called "Dumb Angel" but soon re-titled SMiLE, on which he collaborated with lyricist Van Dyke Parks.
However, the combination of resistance from within the group and Wilson's own growing personal problems led to the cancellation of the project in mid-1967.
Wilson also was the owner of a health food shop in Hollywood that lasted a year from its founding in the summer of 1969, the "Radiant Radish".
Following a breakdown Wilson descended into mental illness and drug abuse in the late Sixties and 1970s, taking less and less of a role in the world of the Beach Boys. Withdrawing into himself, he spent long periods of time sleeping, taking drugs and overeating. In a bid to help Brian, and, as a by-product, help revive the group's ailing profile, Brian's wife and family enlisted the services of controversial therapist Dr. Eugene Landy. In 1976, Landy managed to help Brian into a more productive, social frame of mind. New albums were recorded, and, for the first time since 1964, Brian started to regularly appear live on stage with the band. This situation continued for a few years, but by 1982, his mental state had deteriorated even further, he was taking large amounts of cocaine, he weighed over 300lbs and was in danger of losing his life.
Dr. Eugene Landy was once more called into action, and a more radical program was undertaken to try and restore Brian to health. This involved firing him from the Beach Boys, isolating him from his family on Hawaii and being put onto a rigourous diet and health regime. This, coupled with long, extreme counselling sessions, brought Brian back to reality. He was certainly fitter, healthier and more conversant than previously, but he was also under a strict level of control by Dr Landy. Brian's recovery continued as he joined the band onstage in Live Aid in 1985, and recorded a new eponymous album with the Beach Boys.
He also tried to launch a career as a solo artist in the 1988, with limited success. His efforts were both encouraged and hampered by the influence of his Dr. Landy. Partially due to Landy's extreme control over Brian's life, Wilson stopped working with the Beach Boys on a regular basis after the release of The Beach Boys in 1985. Landy's illegal use of psychotropic drugs on Wilson and his interference in all of his affairs was finally legally ended by Brian's brother Carl.
His final release as part of the group was on the 1996 album Stars and Stripes Vol. 1, a group collaboration with select country music artists singing the lead vocals.
Brian released a solo album, Brian Wilson, in 1988 and a memoir, "Wouldn't It Be Nice - My Own Story", in which he spoke for the first time about his troubled relationship with his abusive father Murry and his "lost years" of mental illness. The book makes for shocking reading, featuring some particularly gruesome details.
It is widely understood that although it was written following interviews with Brian and others, Eugene Landy was largely responsible for the book, in conjunction with People magazine writer Todd Gold. In a later lawsuit over the book, Wilson testified in court that he hadn't even read the final manuscript. As a result, the book was taken out of press some years later.
Brian married Melinda Ledbetter in 1995 and subsequently the couple adopted two girls, Daria and Delanie, and, in 2004, a son, Dylan. He has two daughters from his first marriage to Marilyn Rovell, Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson, who would go on to musical success of their own in the early 1990s as two-thirds of Wilson Phillips.
Also in 1995 he released two albums, albeit not containing any new original material, almost simultaneously. The first, the soundtrack to Don Was' documentary I Just Wasn't Made For These Times, consists of rerecorded versions of songs from his Beach Boys and solo catalogue produced by Was, along with a 1976-vintage demo recording. The second, Orange Crate Art, saw Wilson as lead vocalist on an album of songs produced, arranged and (mostly) written by Van Dyke Parks, and was released as a duo album under both men's names. Both albums received considerable critical acclaim.
After considerable mental recovery, he released a second solo album of (mostly) new material, Imagination, in 1998 to some appreciation. Following this, he learned to cope with his stage fright and started to play live for the first time in decades, to great success, going on to play the whole Pet Sounds album live on his tours of the United States, United Kingdom and Europe. He now tours regularly as a solo act with a large backing band that includes the members of The Wondermints and former Beach Boys guitarist Jeff Foskett.
A new studio album, Gettin' in Over My Head, was released on 22 June 2004. It featured collaborations with Elton John, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and his deceased brother Carl Wilson. Eric Clapton played on the track "City Blues."
Hot on the heels on this new album, on 28 September 2004, a re-recorded version of his previously shelved SMiLE album was released. The album had reached mythic proportions within Beach Boys fandom, and the 1966/1967 sessions had been heavily bootlegged. The 2004 recording featured his touring band which consists of Jeff Foskett and members of the Wondermints and others, including the blond backup singer Taylor Mills, on vocals and instruments, and is a Brian Wilson solo album. Notably, the song "Good Vibrations" featured Tony Asher's original lyrics instead of the more familiar ones penned by Beach Boy Mike Love from the 1966 single version of the song. The album was a complete success earning Wilson rave reviews from all over the globe, spawning several tours, throughout Europe, Japan, Australia, and the United States in 2004 and 2005. Both the tours and album were critical and financial successes.
Wilson won a Grammy award for best rock instrumental for the "SMiLE" track "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow (Fire)." He released a two-DVD "Smile" set, consisting of a documentary and a live presentation of the work. He planned a tour for the second half of 2005, as well as a Christmas album for Arista Records, called What I Really Want For Christmas.
Though no longer a part of The Beach Boys touring band, Brian Wilson remains a member of the Beach Boys corporation, Brother Records Incorporated.
Canadian rock group Barenaked Ladies paid tribute to the Beach Boy in their hit song "Brian Wilson," which makes reference to his mental illness and Dr. Landy. In a weird twist, Brian Wilson actually covered this song for a live album. John Cale had also paid tribute to Wilson in his song "Mr. Wilson", as did Roland Orzabal in "Brian Wilson Said" from Tears For Fears' 1994 album Elemental.
Recently, Brian Wilson cameoed in Duck Dodgers in the 24th Century as Daffy Duck's spiritual surfing advisor. He also made a musical appearance on the 2005 holiday episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, performing "Deck the Halls" for a group of children with xeroderma pigmentosum (hypersensitivity to sunlight) at Walt Disney World, which specially opened at night for these children.
He is back on the road again performing both newer material from his solo career, as well as his classic albums 'Smile' and 'Pet Sounds' with his latter-day band.
On the U.S. Summer tour of 2005, Wilson debuted a brand new song called "Walking Down The Path of Life" showing he has not lost his touch as a songwriter, or singer. The beautiful, harmony laden, spiritual ode was also performed at several Hurricane Katrina benefits in the fall of 2005. The song, with an a capella rerecording of "Love And Mercy" by himself and bandmmembers as a B-side, has also been released as a charity CD-single for victims of the hurricane.
Brian Wilson has been personally telephoning fans who pledge more than $100 to the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and has promised to match the donations. ("If we get $10,000 dollars, I'll give $10,000").
In 2005, former bandmate Mike Love controversially sued Wilson over "shamelessly misappropriating...Love's songs, likeness, and the Beach Boys trademark, as well as the 'Smile' album itself" in the promotion of SMiLE and an exclusive CD collection issued through a British magazine to promote the release. () Wilson's representatives have responded on the official message board that the lawsuit is "meritless" and that Brian "will vigorously defend himself" in court. << Less Bio