- Category : Singer - Popular
- Type : Projector
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Small (21,36,51)
- Incarnation Cross : The Vessel of Love 2
- Birth Time Accuracy : AA
Brian Douglas Wilson (born June 20, 1942) is an American musician and the leader, lead vocalist, bassist and chief songwriter of the Beach Boys. Besides being their primary composer, he also functioned as the band's main producer and arranger. After signing with Capitol Records in mid-1962, Wilson wrote or co-wrote more than two dozen Top 40 hits for the Beach Boys.
In the mid-1960s, Wilson used his increasingly creative ambitions to compose and produce Pet Sounds, considered one of the greatest albums of all time. The intended follow up to Pet Sounds, Smile, was cancelled for various reasons, including Wilson's deteriorating mental health. Wilson's contributions to the Beach Boys diminished and his erratic behavior led to tensions with the band. After years of treatment and recuperation, he began a solo career in 1988 with Brian Wilson, the same year that he and the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Since then, he has toured for the first time in decades with a new band and released acclaimed albums, including a reworked version of Smile in 2004, for which Wilson won his first Grammy Award for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow (Fire)" as Best Rock Instrumental.
In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine published a list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" that ranked Wilson number 52. He is an occasional actor and voice actor, having appeared in television shows, films, and other artists' music videos. On December 16, 2011, a 50th Anniversary Reunion was announced and Brian briefly returned to the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson remains a member of the Beach Boys corporation, Brother Records Incorporated.
1942–1982: Life and initial career with the Beach Boys
Early years (1942–1962)
Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, California, the son of Audree Neva (née Korthof) and Murry Gage Wilson. He was the eldest of three boys; his younger brothers were Dennis and Carl. When Brian was two, the Wilson family moved from Inglewood to 3701 West 119th Street in nearby Hawthorne, California.
Brian Wilson's father told of Brian's unusual musical abilities prior to his first birthday, observing that the baby could repeat the melody from "When the Caissons Go Rolling Along" after only a few verses had been sung by the father. Murry stated, "He was very clever and quick. I just fell in love with him."
At about age two, Brian heard George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which had an enormous emotional impact on him. A few years later Brian was discovered to have extremely diminished hearing in his right ear. The exact cause of this hearing loss is unclear, though theories range from Brian's simply being born partially deaf, to a blow to the head from Brian's father, or a neighborhood bully, being to blame.
While father Murry was ostensibly a reasonable provider, he was often abusive. Murry Wilson, a minor musician and songwriter, also encouraged his children in this field in numerous ways. At an early age, Brian was given six weeks of lessons on a "toy accordion," and at seven and eight sang solos in church with a choir behind him. Brian was on the football team as a quarterback, played baseball and was a cross-country runner in his senior year. He sang with various students at school functions and with his family and friends at home. Brian taught his two brothers harmony parts that all three would then practice when they were supposed to be asleep. He also played piano obsessively after school, deconstructing the harmonies of The Four Freshmen by listening to short segments of their songs on a phonograph, then working to recreate the blended sounds note by note on the keyboard. Brian received a Wollensak tape recorder on his 16th birthday, allowing him to experiment with recording songs and early group vocals.
First steps: Carl and the Passions
Wilson's surviving home tapes document his initial efforts singing with various friends and family, including a song the Beach Boys later recorded in the studio, "Sloop John B"—and "Bermuda Shorts" and a hymn titled Good News. In his senior year at Hawthorne High, in addition to classroom music studies, he sang at lunch time with friends like Keith Lent and Bruce Griffin. Brian and Lent worked on a revised version of the tune "Hully Gully" to support the campaign of a classmate named Carol Hess when she ran for senior class president.
Enlisting his cousin and often-time singing partner Mike Love, and Wilson's reluctant youngest brother Carl Wilson, Brian's next public performance featured more ambitious arrangements at a fall arts program at his high school. To entice Carl into the group, Wilson named the newly formed membership Carl and the Passions. The performance featured tunes by Dion and the Belmonts and The Four Freshmen (It's a Blue World), the latter of which proved difficult for the ensemble. However, the event was notable for the impression it made on another musician and classmate of Brian's in the audience that night, Al Jardine, who later joined the three Wilson brothers and Mike Love in the Beach Boys.
Initial compositions and the Pendletones
Wilson enrolled at El Camino College in Los Angeles, majoring in psychology, in September 1960. He continued his music studies at the college as well. At some point in 1961 he wrote his first all-original melody, loosely based on a Dion and the Belmonts version of "When You Wish Upon a Star". The song was eventually known as "Surfer Girl". Though an early demo of the song was recorded in February 1962 at World-Pacific Studios, it was not re-recorded and released until 1963, when it became a top ten hit.
Brian and his brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson, with Mike Love and Al Jardine, first appeared as a music group in the summer of 1961, initially under the name The Pendletones. After being prodded by Dennis to write a song about the local water sports craze, Brian and Mike Love together created what became the first single for the band, "Surfin'". Over Labor Day weekend 1961, Brian took advantage of the fact that his parents were in Mexico City for a couple of days, and intended to use the emergency money they had left to rent an amp, a microphone, and a stand-up bass. As it turned out, the money was not enough to cover musical expenses, so Al Jardine appealed to his mother, Virginia for help. When she heard the group perform, she was suitably impressed and handed over $300. Al promptly took Brian to the music store where he rented a stand-up bass. After rehearsing for two days in the Wilsons' music room, Brian's parents returned home from their trip. Murry was irate, until Brian convinced him to listen to what they'd been up to. His father was convinced that the boys did indeed have something worth pursuing. He quickly proclaimed himself the group's manager and the band embarked on serious rehearsals for a proper studio session. Recorded by Hite and Dorinda Morgan and released on the small Candix Records label, "Surfin'" became a top local hit in Los Angeles and reached number seventy-five on the national Billboard sales charts.
Dennis later described the first time Brian heard their song on the radio as the three Wilson brothers (and soon-to-be-band member David Marks) drove in Brian's 1957 Ford in the rain: "Nothing will ever top the expression on Brian's face, ever ... THAT was the all-time moment."
However, the Pendletones were no more. Without the band's knowledge or permission, Candix Records had changed their name to the Beach Boys.
First performances and the quest for a major label
Brian Wilson and his bandmates, following a set by Ike and Tina Turner, performed their first major live show at The Ritchie Valens Memorial Dance on New Year's Eve, 1961. Three days previously, Brian's father had bought him an electric bass and amplifier; Brian had learned to play the instrument in that short period of time, with Al Jardine moving to rhythm guitar.
Looking for a follow-up single for their radio hit, Brian and Mike Love wrote "Surfin' Safari", and attempts were made to record a usable take at World Pacific, including overdubs, on February 8, 1962, along with several other tunes including an early version of "Surfer Girl". Only a few days later, discouraged about the band's financial prospects, and objecting to adding some Chubby Checker songs to the Beach Boys live setlist, Al Jardine abruptly left the group, but rejoined shortly thereafter.
When Candix Records ran into money problems and sold the group's master recordings to another label, Murry Wilson terminated the contract. Brian, worried about the Beach Boys' future, asked his father to help his group make more recordings. But Murry and Hite Morgan (who at this point was their music publisher) were turned down by a number of Los Angeles record companies.
As "Surfin'" faded from the charts, Brian, who had forged a songwriting partnership with Gary Usher, created several new songs, including a car song, "409", that Usher helped them write. Recruiting David Marks, who had been playing electric guitar (and practicing with Carl) for years, Brian and the revamped Beach Boys cut new tracks at Western Recorders including an updated "Surfin' Safari" and "409". These songs convinced Capitol Records to release the demos as a single; they became a double-sided national hit.
On stage, Wilson provided many of the lead vocals, and often harmonized with the group in falsetto. Although he initially played an electric bass guitar on stage, he gradually transitioned to primarily playing piano/organ by the end of the decade.
The Beach Boys and first success with Capitol Records (1962-1967)
Recording sessions for the band's first album took place in Capitol's basement studios (in the famous tower building) in August 1962, but early on Brian lobbied for a different place to cut Beach Boy tracks. The large rooms were built to record the big orchestras and ensembles of the 1950s, not small rock groups. At Brian's insistence, Capitol agreed to let the Beach Boys pay for their own outside recording sessions, to which Capitol would own all the rights, and in return the band would receive a higher royalty rate on their record sales. Additionally, during the taping of their first LP Brian fought for, and won, the right to be in charge of the production- though his first acknowledged liner notes production credit did not come until the band's third album, "Surfer Girl", in 1963.
In January 1963, the Beach Boys recorded their first top-ten (cresting at number three in the United States) single, "Surfin' U.S.A.", which began their long run of highly successful recording efforts at Hollywood's Western Recorders on Sunset Boulevard. It was during the sessions for this single that Brian made the production decision from that point on to use doubletracking on the group's vocals, resulting in a deeper and more resonant sound.
The song, adapted from (and eventually entirely credited to) Chuck Berry, is widely seen as emblematic of the early 1960s American rock cultural experience. The Surfin' U.S.A. album was also a big hit in the United States, reaching number two on the national sales charts by early July 1963. The Beach Boys had become a top-rank recording and touring band.
Early era as writer/producer
Brian was first credited as the Beach Boys' producer on the Surfer Girl album, recorded in June and July 1963 and released in September 1963. This LP reached number seven on the national charts on the strength of songs like the ballad "In My Room", later released as a single; "Catch a Wave"; and "Little Deuce Coupe", which was released as a double-sided single with the album's title track, both top-15 hits.
He also began working with other artists in this period. On July 20, 1963, "Surf City", which he co-wrote with Jan Berry of Jan and Dean, was his first composition to reach the top of the US charts. The resulting success pleased Brian, but angered both Murry and Capitol Records. Murry went so far as to order his oldest son to sever any future collaborations with Jan and Dean.
Brian's other non-Beach Boy work in this period included tracks by The Honeys, Sharon Marie, The Timers, and The Survivors. Feeling that surfing songs had become limiting, Brian decided to produce a set of largely car-oriented tunes for the Beach Boys' fourth album, Little Deuce Coupe, which was released in October 1963, only three weeks after the Surfer Girl LP. The departure of guitarist David Marks from the band that month meant that Brian was forced to resume touring with the Beach Boys, for a time reducing his availability in the recording studio.
Brian became recognized for his unique use of vocal harmonization and incessant studio perfectionism. Early influences on his music included not only the previously mentioned Four Freshmen and Chuck Berry, but also the work of record producer Phil Spector, whom popularized the wall of sound production techniques that Wilson would develop a fervent obsession with for most of his life. He later considered both Phil Spector and The Beatles as his chief rivals, and the latter in turn cited his work as an influence. Wilson also produced records for other artists, but with less success—except for Jan and Dean, for whom Wilson co-wrote several hit songs. Following a nervous breakdown on board a flight from L.A. to Houston on December 23, 1964, Wilson stopped performing live with the Beach Boys in an effort to concentrate solely on songwriting and studio production. Glen Campbell was called in as his temporary stand-in for live performances, before Bruce Johnston replaced him. In late 1965, Wilson began working on material for a new album after hearing the Beatles' 1965 album Rubber Soul.
"With the 1966 Pet Sounds album, and then songs like 'Good Vibrations' and 'Heroes and Villains', Wilson had become America's equivalent of The Beatles with his ability to expand the limits of popular taste."
As he began work on the new project, Pet Sounds, Wilson formed a temporary songwriting partnership with lyricist Tony Asher. Wilson, who had recorded the album's instrumentation with The Wrecking Crew, then assembled the Beach Boys to record vocal overdubs, following their return from a tour of Japan. Upon hearing what Wilson had created for the first time in 1965, the group, particularly Mike Love, was somewhat critical of their leader's music, and expressed their dissatisfaction. At this time, Wilson still had considerable control within the group and, according to Wilson, they eventually overcame their initial negative reaction, as his newly created music began to near completion; "They thought it was too far-out to do, you know?... But then when it was all done, they liked it. They started liking it." The album was released May 16, 1966 and, despite modest sales figures at the time, has since become widely critically acclaimed, often being cited among the all-time greatest albums. Although the record was issued under the group's name, Pet Sounds is arguably seen as a Brian Wilson solo album—Wilson even toyed with the idea by releasing "Caroline, No" as a solo single in March 1966—reaching number 32 on the Billboard charts.
During the Pet Sounds sessions, Wilson had been working on another song, which was held back from inclusion on the record as he felt that it was not sufficiently complete. The song "Good Vibrations" set a new standard for musicians and for what could be achieved in the recording studio. Recorded in multiple sessions and in numerous studios, the song eventually cost $50,000 to record within a six-month period. In October 1966, the song was released as a single, giving the Beach Boys their third U.S. number-one hit alongside "I Get Around" and "Help Me, Rhonda". It sold over a million copies.
Smile, group tension and Brother Records
With the universal success of "Good Vibrations", Capitol Records decided to back Wilson up for his next project, originally called Dumb Angel but soon re-titled Smile, which collaborator Van Dyke Parks would describe as a "...teenage symphony to God." "Good Vibrations" had been recorded in modular style, with separately written sections individually taped and linked together, and Wilson's concept for the new album was more of the same, representing a departure from the standard live-taped performances typical of studio recordings at that time. Having been introduced to Parks at a garden party at Terry Melcher's home, Wilson liked Parks' "visionary eloquence" and began work with him in the fall of 1966. The pair collaborated closely on "Heroes and Villains", "Surf's Up", "Wonderful", "Vegetables", and "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow". Wilson recorded backing tracks, largely with session musicians, through the winter. Over Christmas of 1966, however, conflict within the group and Wilson's own growing personal problems threw the project into terminal disarray. Originally scheduled for release in January 1967, the release date was continually pushed back until press officer Derek Taylor announced its cancellation in May 1967.
Among the factors that distracted Wilson and deflected the project was Carl Wilson's notice for the draft (something he fought as a conscientious objector) , the Beach Boys' corporate decision at this time to file a lawsuit against Capitol Records for unpaid royalties and start their own label, Brother Records. Allegedly, Wilson was also deterred by news of the Beatles' progress on their own radical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. On a visit to Los Angeles in April, Paul McCartney played Wilson a song from the album, "She's Leaving Home". Later Wilson was said to be "deeply affected" by hearing a tape of another song, "A Day in the Life". Directly afterward, Smile was abandoned, and Wilson did not return to complete it until 2004, when it was released as a Brian Wilson solo album of the same name. In 1999, Van Dyke Parks said his belief was that, "Brian had a nervous collapse. What broke his heart was Sgt. Pepper."
In writer-director Michael Feeney Callan's 1993 RTE film marking the Beach Boys' thirtieth anniversary, The Beach Boys Today, Mike Love contested any suggestion that he had personally blocked the project, and Carl Wilson attributed its collapse principally to drug usage and Brian's unstable health.
Onset of mental illness and drug addiction (1967-1972)
Following the cancellation of Smile, The Beach Boys relocated to a studio situated in the living room of Brian Wilson's new mansion in Bel Air (once the home of Edgar Rice Burroughs), where the band would primarily record until 1972. This marked the decisive end of Wilson's autocratic leadership within the band, and has been seen to be "the moment when the Beach Boys first started slipping from the vanguard to nostalgia."
Throughout mid-to-late 1967, Wilson concurrently oversaw the production of such heavily orchestrated songs as "Can't Wait Too Long" and "Time to Get Alone" (the latter originally intended for Redwood, the band who would become Three Dog Night), alongside the albums Smiley Smile (composed mainly of reconstituted Smile material recorded in minimalist arrangements by the core Beach Boys) and the R&B-inflected Wild Honey, both of which performed only modestly on the charts. His interest in the Beach Boys began to wax and wane, and he was frequently seen partying with songwriter Tandyn Almer and singer Danny Hutton; it was during this period that he was introduced to cocaine. Still psychologically overwhelmed by the cancellation of Smile and the imminent birth of his first child Carnie Wilson in 1968 amid the looming financial insolvency of the Beach Boys (Friends, which was largely written and produced by Wilson and recorded with much involvement from the Wrecking Crew, peaked at number 126 on the American charts), Wilson's creative directorship within the band became increasingly tenuous. Shortly after abandoning an intricate Pet Sounds-style version of Kern and Hammerstein's "Ol' Man River" at the behest of Mike Love, Wilson entered a psychiatric hospital for a brief period of time and "perhaps of his own volition"; biographer Peter Ames Carlin has speculated that Wilson may have been administered a number of treatments—ranging from talking therapies to "stiff doses of Lithium" and the more extreme electroconvulsive therapy—during this stay. In his absence, 1969's 20/20 consisted substantially of key Smile outtakes ("Cabinessence" & "Our Prayer") and a few long-germinating new songs like "Time to Get Alone." The album's singles—the Bruce Johnston-produced original "Bluebirds Over the Mountains" (Billboard number 64) and the Carl Wilson-produced cover of The Ronettes' "I Can Hear Music"—won lukewarm attention, with the latter reaching number 24 on the Billboard single chart in April 1969; the lead track, the Wilson/Love-authored "Do It Again", an unabashed throwback to the band's earlier surf hits, had been an international hit in the summer of 1968, reaching number 20 in the US charts and number one in the UK and Australia while also scoring well in other countries.
In 1969 and 1970, Wilson's health temporarily stabilized. He made concert appearances, and stood in for Mike Love during a 1970 Northwest tour when Love was convalescing from illness. He also resumed writing and recording with the Beach Boys at a brisk pace; seven of the twelve new songs on the 1970 album Sunflower were either written or co-written by Wilson. Nevertheless, the album was a commercial failure in the United States, peaking at 151 during a four-week Billboard chart stay in October 1970. Following the termination of the Capitol contract in 1969, the band's new contract with Reprise Records (brokered by Van Dyke Parks, then employed as a multimedia executive at the company) stipulated Brian Wilson's proactive involvement with the band in all albums—a factor that would become hugely problematic for the band in the years to come. During this phase, Brian also wrote—with his father Murry assisting under the pseudonym of Reggie Dunbar—the autobiographical song, Break Away, which would become a UK hit single. The song's lyrics explicitly allude to the depression and aural hallucinations that would hamper Wilson's health in the decade to come. Wilson played and sang on much of the 1971 Surf's Up album and wrote or co-wrote four of the album's ten songs, including the title track, which was a Carl Wilson-produced rerecording of the legendary 1966 Smile track. Carl Wilson told Michael Feeney Callan that he had personally "dug that one up from the vaults, but there was no objection [from Brian] in our revisiting it." After alleged opposition to the dark lyrics of one of his contributions, the autobiographical "'Til I Die" (a song demoed in 1969 and largely recorded in 1970), Wilson was reported to have lost interest in the group once more, conceding leadership of the sessions to his youngest brother. Indeed, only one fully formed original song from Wilson emerged during the album's nominal recording sessions, the dirge-like A Day in the Life of a Tree.
In late 1971 and early 1972, he worked on an album for American Spring titled Spring, a new collaboration between erstwhile Honeys Marilyn Wilson and Diane Rovell. While he was initially closely involved in the home-based recordings with co-producer David Sandler and engineer Stephen Desper and "...did significant work on more than half of the tracks," his involvement, as with much of his work in the era, "ebbed and flowed." Simultaneously, he continued to supply new songs to the Beach Boys, although his productivity had steadily diminished following the fallow reception of Sunflower. Wilson contributed to three out of eight songs on Beach Boys' Carl and the Passions – "So Tough" in early 1972, and reluctantly agreed to accompany the band to the Netherlands, where they based themselves to record Holland. Though Wilson was present for the Dutch recordings, he yielded to his bibulous tendencies (primarily hashish and hard cider) and rarely participated, confining himself to work on "Funky Pretty" (a collaboration with Mike Love and the band's manager, Jack Rieley), a one-line sung intro to Al Jardine's "California Saga: California", and Mount Vernon and Fairway (A Fairy Tale), a children's narrative suite musically inspired by Randy Newman's Sail Away that was promptly rejected by the band; eventually, Carl Wilson capitulated and ensured that the suite would be released as a bonus EP with the album. When the album itself was rejected by Reprise, the song "Sail On, Sailor" (a collaborative, Brian Wilson-led effort dating from 1971) was inserted at the instigation of Van Dyke Parks and released as the lead single; it promptly garnered a considerable amount of FM radio play, became a minor chart hit, and entered the band's live sets as a concert staple. By way of explaining Brian's variable input, Carl Wilson told Musician magazine in 1981 that his brother had become seriously addicted to cocaine during this period.
Eugene Landy intervention and the "Brian's Back!" campaign (1973-1982)
Wilson spent a great deal of the two years following his father's June 1973 death secluded in the chauffeur's quarters of his home; sleeping, abusing alcohol, taking drugs and overeating. During this period his voice deteriorated significantly as a result of his mass consumption of cocaine and incessant chain smoking. During the summer of 1974, the Capitol Records-era greatest hits compilation Endless Summer reached number one on the Billboard charts, reaffirming the relevance of the Beach Boys in the popular cultural imagination; However recording sessions for a new album under the supervision of Wilson and James William Guercio at Caribou Ranch that autumn yielded only a smattering of basic tracks. "Child of Winter," a Christmas single co-written by Wilson and Stephen Kalinich, was released belatedly for the holiday market on December 23 and failed to chart. Subsequently, though still under contract to Warner Brothers, Wilson signed a sideline production deal with Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher's Equinox Records in early 1975. This contract was nullified by the Beach Boys' management, who perceived it as an attempt by Wilson to relieve the burden of his growing drug expenses. Dismayed by his continued deterioration and reluctant to payroll Wilson as an active partner in the touring Beach Boys (an arrangement that had persisted for a decade), Marilyn and the Wilson family enlisted the services of radical therapist Eugene Landy in October 1975.
Wilson was under Landy's care for fourteen months until December 1976, when the therapist was dismissed for a dispute on his monthly fee. Though Landy diagnosed Wilson as paranoid schizophrenic (a diagnosis later retracted) and prescribed medication in accordance, the treatment prompted a more stable, socially engaged Wilson whose productivity increased again. The tagline "Brian's Back!" became a major promotional tool for the new Beach Boys album, 15 Big Ones, released to coincide with their fifteenth anniversary as a band. A tentative amalgamation of oldies and some new songs, the record was released in the summer of 1976 to commercial acclaim and, despite moderate reviews, peaked at number 8 on the Billboard album chart, the band's highest entry (apart from Endless Summer and the follow-up 1975 compilation Spirit of America) since 1965. Wilson returned to regular stage appearances with the band, alternating between piano and bass and, under Landy's advice, made a solo appearance on Saturday Night Live in November 1976; producer Lorne Michaels stipulated Wilson's exclusive performance, much to the chagrin of the other Beach Boys. In April 1977, the all-original Wilson album Love You was released; Wilson himself has often called this his favorite Beach Boys album. Described by engineer Earle Mankey as a "frighteningly accurate album" and "sort of like Eraserhead" in comparison to Wilson's lush 1960s oeuvre, the album's playful lyrics (alternately invoking Johnny Carson, Phil Spector and adolescent interests) and stark instrumentation (featuring Moog bass lines and gated reverb-drenched drum patterns reflective of contemporaneous work by David Bowie and Tony Visconti) failed to impact an audience sated on the ubiquitous Endless Summer sound. Nonetheless, Love You reached number 53 on the Billboard chart and was lauded as an artistic watershed by many critics, including Robert Christgau of The Village Voice.
Throughout the next five years, Wilson vacillated between periods of relative stability and resurgences of his food and drug addictions. The Wilsons' divorce in January 1979 cited allegations of infidelity on Marilyn's part and inappropriate behavior on Brian's (allegedly offering drugs to his children) but was considered more a mutual surrender to the pressures of Wilson's continued emotional health problems. Brian's role in the band—as well as the Beach Boys' commercial prospects—began to diminish once more. During this difficult period, the single "Good Timin'" (a collaboration between Brian and Carl Wilson dating from the 1974 Caribou sessions) peaked at number 40 in June 1979.
1982–present: Solo career
Return of Landy (1982-1988)
By 1982, Wilson weighed over 325 pounds and was again immersed in his addictions. Eugene Landy was once more employed, and a more radical program was undertaken to try to restore Wilson to health. This involved "firing" him from the Beach Boys in November 1982 at the behest of Carl Wilson, isolating him from his family and friends (most notably longtime girlfriend/nurse Carolyn Williams) in Hawaii, and putting him on a rigorous diet and health regimen. Coupled with long, extreme counseling sessions, this therapy was successful in bringing Wilson back to physical health. He lost more than 100 pounds and temporarily became a gym fanatic. As Wilson's recovery consolidated, he rejoined the Beach Boys for Live Aid in 1985 and participated in the recording of the Steve Levine-produced album, The Beach Boys. Largely due to the control that Landy exercised, Wilson stopped working with the Beach Boys on a regular basis after the release of the album. Thereafter, he signed to a solo record deal with Sire Records label boss Seymour Stein and variously worked with Andy Paley, Russ Titelman and Landy's girlfriend as co-authors on the new material. Old friend and collaborator Gary Usher was a key participant in the early demo work for the album, though Landy later removed him from the project.
After several years of genesis, Wilson released his debut solo album Brian Wilson in July 1988, to critical acclaim. It is arguable that this "breakout" work was hampered by Landy's influence, since Landy insisted on controlling involvement in every aspect of Wilson's writing and recording and his lyrical influence is significant.
Eventually, Landy's therapy technique created a Svengali-like environment for Wilson, controlling every movement in his life, including his musical direction. Landy's misconduct would eventually lead to the loss of his California psychology license, as well as a court-ordered removal and restraining order from Wilson.
"Autobiography", new health issues and court battles (1989-1994)
By 1989, despite the critical success of his debut solo album, rumors abounded that Wilson had either suffered a stroke or had been permanently disabled due to excessive drug use. One biographer reported that the actual problem was that Wilson, who had been prescribed massive amounts of psychotropic drugs by Landy's staff since 1983, had developed tardive dyskinesia, a neurological condition marked by involuntary, repetitive movements, that develops in about 20% of patients treated with anti-psychotic drugs for a long period of time.
In order to dispel these claims, in 1990 came a faux memoir, Wouldn't It Be Nice - My Own Story, published in 1990. In the book, whose authorship is still debated, Wilson spoke about his troubled relationship with his abusive father Murry, his private disputes with the Beach Boys and his "lost years" of mental illness. Though the book drew on interviews with Wilson and others (by Todd Gold) it is widely believed to be Landy's account of Brian's life. Several family members, including Carl Wilson and mother Audree, testified in court that Brian had not even read the final manuscript.
Wilson's proposed second solo album under the direction of Landy, entitled Sweet Insanity, was rejected by Sire in 1990. It is believed that the disturbingly self-revelatory lyrics of "therapy songs" like Brian and ersatz rap like the seemingly sexist Smart Girls, hurt the album. Sweet Insanity also contained delicate and impressive compositions that reemerged on later solo albums (viz., Let's Stick Together, which became The Waltz on Wilson's 2004 solo album Gettin' In Over My Head).
Landy's illegal use of psychotropic drugs on Wilson, and his influence over Wilson's financial affairs was legally ended by Carl Wilson and other members of the Wilson family after a two-year-long conservatorship battle in Los Angeles. A court-appointed conservator was appointed to oversee Wilson's financial and legal affairs in 1994.
I Just Wasn't Made For These Times documentary and subsequent touring (1995-2002)
In 1995, Wilson married Melinda Ledbetter, a car saleswoman and former model he met several years earlier while under the care of Eugene Landy. The couple adopted five children: two girls, Daria Rose and Delanie Rae, in 1998; a boy, Dylan, in 2004; a boy, Dash Tristan in 2009; and a girl, Dakota Rose, in 2010. Wilson 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.
During this time, Wilson was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type) which supposedly caused him to hear voices. Wilson's drug regimen has now been reduced to a combination of mild antidepressants, and he has resumed recording and performing.
Wilson also released two albums simultaneously in 1995. The first was the soundtrack to Don Was's documentary I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, which consisted of new versions of several Beach Boys and solo songs. The second, Orange Crate Art, saw Wilson as lead vocalist on an album produced, arranged and written by Van Dyke Parks.
Having missed out on the Beach Boys' 27th studio album Summer in Paradise due to Landy's intervention, Wilson returned for the 1996 album, Stars and Stripes Vol. 1, a group collaboration, backing country music artists singing lead vocals of Beach Boys' standards. After considerable mental recovery, he mended his relationship with his daughters Carnie and Wendy and the three of them released an album in 1997 titled The Wilsons. Also, around this time, Wilson sang backup on Belinda Carlisle's "California."
In Landy's absence, Wilson was free to return to unfettered solo composition. In 1998, he teamed with Chicago-based producer Joe Thomas for the album Imagination. Following this, he received extensive vocal coaching to improve his voice, learned to cope with his stage fright, and started to perform live for the first time in decades. This resulted in Wilson successfully performing the entire Pet Sounds album live throughout the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.
Wilson's third solo album Gettin' In Over My Head (2004) featured collaborations with Elton John, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and brother Carl, who died in February 1998. Clapton played on the track "City Blues," and McCartney's collaboration on "A Friend Like You" fulfilled for many a fantasy union of the legendary Beatles with the legendary Beach Boys. The return to prolific writing and touring gave birth to a new artistic emergence by Wilson.
Brian Wilson Presents Smile (2003-2004)
With his mental health finally on the mend, Wilson decided to revisit the aborted Smile project from 1967. Aided by musician and longtime fan Darian Sahanaja of Wondermints, and lyricist Van Dyke Parks, Wilson reimagined the session material into something that would work in a live context. His work was finally revealed in concert on February 20, 2004, 37 years after it was conceived, though he later stated that the finished product was substantially different to what was originally envisioned. Wilson debuted his 2004 interpretation of Smile at the Royal Festival Hall in London and subsequently toured the UK. Following the tour, Brian Wilson Presents Smile was recorded, and released in September 2004.
The debut performance at the Royal Festival Hall was a defining moment for Wilson. The documentary DVD of the event shows Wilson preparing for the performance and expressing doubts over the concept of putting this work before the public, moments before taking the stage. After an opening set of Beach Boys classics, Wilson returned to the stage to perform Smile in its entirety. A 10-minute standing ovation followed the concert; the DVD shows several rock luminaries in the crowd, such as Roger Daltrey, Paul Weller, Sir George Martin and Sir Paul McCartney (although neither Martin nor McCartney attended the opening night, contrary to what the DVD implies).
Brian Wilson Presents Smile was then recorded from April through June, and released in September, to wide critical acclaim. The release hit number 13 on the Billboard chart. The 2004 recording featured his backup/touring band, including Beach Boys guitarist Jeff Foskett, members of Wondermints and backup singer Taylor Mills. On this album, "Good Vibrations" features Tony Asher's original verse lyrics used with sections of Mike Love's lyrics from the 1966 version.
At the 47th Grammy Awards in 2005, Wilson won his first Grammy for the track "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" as Best Rock Instrumental. In 2004, Wilson promoted Brian Wilson Presents Smile with a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Europe. In December 2005, he also released What I Really Want for Christmas for Arista Records. The release hit number 200 on the Billboard chart, though sales were modest. Wilson's remake of the classic "Deck the Halls" became a surprise Top 10 Adult Contemporary hit.
After 44 years, Wilson oversaw the official Beach Boys release of the original, partially completed Smile recordings as a compilation titled The Smile Sessions. Released on October 31, 2011, the album was made available as single CD, a 2 CD box-set, a vinyl double album, and a deluxe 5 CD/2 LP box set.
Post-Smile to That Lucky Old Sun (2005-2008)
In February 2005, Wilson had a cameo in the TV series Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century as Daffy Duck's spiritual surfing adviser. He also appeared in the 2005 holiday episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, performing "Deck the Halls" for children with xeroderma pigmentosum (hypersensitivity to sunlight) at Walt Disney World Resort. On July 2, 2005, Wilson performed for the Live 8 concert in Berlin, Germany.
In September 2005, Wilson arranged a charity drive to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, wherein people who donated $100 or more would receive a personal phone call from Wilson. According to the website, over $250K was raised. In November 2005, former bandmate Mike Love 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. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed on grounds that it was meritless.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pet Sounds, Wilson embarked on a brief tour in November 2006. Beach Boy Al Jardine accompanied Wilson for the tour.
Wilson then released That Lucky Old Sun in September 2008. The piece originally debuted in a series of September 2007 concerts at London's Royal Festival Hall, and in January 2008 at Sydney's State Theatre while headlining the Sydney Festival. Wilson described the piece as "...consisting of five 'rounds', with interspersed spoken word." A series of US and UK concerts preceded its release.
On September 30, 2008, Seattle's Light in the Attic Records released A World of Peace Must Come, a collaboration between Wilson and Stephen Kalinich, originally recorded in 1969, but later lost in Kalinich's closet.
Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin and the Disney Songs (2009–2011)
In 2009, Wilson's workload increased when he signed a two-record deal with Disney. In summer 2009, Wilson was approached by the Gershwin estate to record an album of his interpretations of classic Gershwin songs, and to assess unfinished piano pieces by Gershwin for possible expansion into finished songs. After extensive evaluation of a vast body of Gershwin fragments, Wilson chose two to complete. The resulting album, Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, was released in August 2010 on Disney's Pearl label. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin achieved Number 1 position on the Billboard Jazz Chart, and had sold 53,000 copies by August 2011.
Wilson's second album for Disney was In The Key Of Disney, a collection of classic Disney movie songs, which was released on October 25, 2011. This album was especially memorable for its inclusion of Wilson's take on When You Wish Upon a Star, the song that had inspired his own first composition, "Surfer Girl".
Also in 2011, Wilson contributed his revival of Buddy Holly's "Listen To Me" to the tribute album, Listen to Me: Buddy Holly, released on September 6, on Verve Forecast. Rolling Stone praised Wilson's version as "gorgeous," featuring "...angelic harmonies and delicate instrumentation."
Reuniting with the surviving Beach Boys (2011–present)
Main article: The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour
In June 2010, the Las Vegas Sun reported that Brian Wilson would join the Beach Boys for their 50th anniversary tour. That July, Rolling Stone magazine reported that Jardine stated "we’re definitely doing at least one show" in 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the band. The reunion would feature all the surviving 1960s-era Beach Boys— Jardine himself, Wilson, Love, Johnston and possibly Marks. Jardine added that the tension between various former band-mates has been resolved. Regarding the various now-resolved lawsuits between them, he noted that "Once we finished our business, all the negativity was gone." Rolling Stone reported that Wilson's manager, Jean Sievers, is "unfamiliar with reunion plans," though the magazine stated, "a source close to Love says there have been discussions for reunion concert, but nothing is set." There was also no confirmation of a location for the concerts.
Jardine joined the Beach Boys for the first time since 1998 at a tribute for Ronald Reagan on February 5, 2011. Wilson was invited to join as well, though he did not attend, as he was recording his Disney album.
On July 27, 2011, Love announced that, "Where we're at right now is Brian's written some songs, I've written some songs. We're talking very seriously about getting together and co-writing and doing some new music together as a band.. ..He's been doing his own touring, we've been doing ours and so we haven't really been able to lock into that, but it looks like this fall we will. It just makes a lot of sense with a milestone such as 50 years to get together and do something." That day, Brian Wilson said the band is going to get back together to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Wilson added that he was at Capitol Records recently with Love and Jardine, but is still not exactly certain what the future holds: “We're going to get together a little bit before we do it.” To rehearse? “I assume so,” Wilson said.
In the Summer 2011 edition of the Beach Boys' fan publication, Endless Summer Quarterly, Love told editor David M. Beard, "We had a session at Capitol Records (with Love, Wilson, Jardine and Bruce Johnston). Brian was conducting the session. ... At the end of the session Brian said, “I can’t believe a 70-year-old guy can sing that great! It was really cute! It was cool. ... It was something to prove that we can work together. There’s a lot of talk and conjecture both internally and externally. All I can say at the moment is I think it would be great to work with Brian and see what can come of it... I’m all in favor of a positive outlook towards that."
In October 2011, Jardine reported that the Beach Boys would reunite in 2012 for 50 U.S. dates and 50-60 overseas dates. Love stated that during the middle of 2011, the band reunited to re-record their song "Do it Again" and make it into a music video to promote the world tour. Love had nothing but praise for Wilson saying "he sounds great, always coming up with chords, and his singing ability is still there. He hasn't lost the ability to do what he does best." Love even said he was more excited about what the future held and together with Wilson they were writing songs again with Beach Boys sessions veteran, Eddie Bayers for an upcoming Beach Boys reunion album. Bayers commented on the new songs by Wilson by saying "Brian's new creations are just unbelievable." Wilson, on the other hand, said he did not really like working with his former bandmates, though it all depends on how they feel and how much money is involved. He concluded by saying that money is not the only reason he made records, but it does hold a place in their lives.
The Beach Boys released their new album, That's Why God Made the Radio, on June 5, 2012. The album's title track was released as its first single in April 2012. The new album debuted at Number 3 on the Billboard charts which was their highest album debut to date.
However in late 2012 following the reunion it was announced that Wilson would no longer tour with the band as Mike Love returned the lineup to its pre-Anniversary Tour configuration with him and Bruce Johnston as its only members.
The Tree of Life producer Bill Pohlad and veteran television writer and producer John Wells (E.R., The West Wing) have teamed to develop a drama based on Wilson's personal and professional story. They have acquired life rights from Wilson and his wife, Melinda, and hired Oren Moverman, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind the offbeat Bob Dylan film I'm Not There, to write a script.