Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys celebrates his 71st birthday today (June 20th). Wilson co-founded the group in 1961 with his late brothers Dennis and Carl Wilson, his cousin Mike Love, neighbor David Marks, and high school buddy Al Jardine. It was Wilson's genius for arranging intricate harmonies that first set him apart from his peers, an ability made even more impressive because he is 97 percent deaf in his right ear. He is the sole-surviving member of his immediate family, with his father Murry dying in 1973, his brothers Dennis and Carl dying in 1983 and 1998, respectively, and his mother Audree passing on in 1997.
Against all odds, 2012 saw Wilson back out on the road with the surviving Beach Boys, touring behind their first Top Ten album in 36 years -- and their first Top Three hit since 1965 -- with That's Why God Made The Radio, which Wilson co-wrote and produced. Wilson is currently in the studio with his longtime band -- along with Beach Boys co-founders Al Jardine and David Marks recording his 11th solo set for Capitol Records. Guest artists involved also include Don Was and Jeff Beck, who'll perform with Wilson, Jardine and Marks on October 20th, during the trio's closing night of their mini-tour at L.A.'s Greek Theatre. Coming on August 27th is the Beach Boys' latest career-spanning box set, chock full of hits, alternate takes, and breathtaking unreleased gems, called Made In California.
Between 1962 and 1967 Wilson produced a total of 22 Top 40 hits, including the group's classics "Surfin' U.S.A," "In My Room," "Little Deuce Coupe," "Surfer Girl," "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Don't Worry Baby," "I Get Around," "Help Me, Rhonda," "California Girls," "Barbara Ann," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "Good Vibrations," and many more.
First cousin and primary lyricist Mike Love says that the hit-making team of he and Brian Wilson would often begin with Wilson only needing help with parts of songs before flowing into a full on collaboration: "I remember so many instances where Brian and I would get together and do some songs. He would be stuck for lyrics and I'd come up with a concept or lyrics. . . So that's what works, is Brian Wilson and Mike Love together."
Al Jardine first bonded with Wilson while the pair was playing high school football for the Hawthorne Cougars. Jardine remembers being amazed by Wilson's athletic ability: "He was a great athlete. He could throw the ball a mile! He had the best spiral. He was the same way in baseball. He was just a very athletic person."
In the late '60s and early '70s Wilson's growing mental and drug abuse problems forced him to retreat from both the band and public life. He was twice entrusted into the care of an unorthodox psychotherapist, Eugene Landy, who by the early '90s had taken over almost complete control of Wilson's personal, professional, and financial interests.
His daughter Carnie Wilson says that it was a family effort to free her dad legally from Landy's all-encompassing grip: "It was a combination of Carl, and (his mother) Audree, and me and (my sister) Wendy and thank God we got him away from him. But, y'know, I'm just so happy for him right now, he's just been through so much."
Over the past dozen years, Wilson has enjoyed a creative and professional renaissance, releasing eight solo albums, including a completed version of the Beach Boys' long unfinished and unreleased 1967 album, Smile. In 2005, the track "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" from Smile earned Wilson his first-ever Grammy when it snagged the Best Rock Instrumental Performance award.
Brian Wilson with Al Jardine and David Marks tour dates (subject to change):
July 20 - Atlantic City, NJ - The Grand
July 21 - Pittsburgh, PA - Stage AE
July 23 - Interlochen, MI - Kresge Auditorium
July 25 - Kettering, OH - Fraze Pavilion For The Performing Arts
July 26 - Highland Park, IL - Ravinia Festival At Ravinia Park
July 27 - Apple Valley, MN - Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater
October 20 - Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theatre (with Jeff Beck)
Photo Courtesy of PRPhotos.com