Happy Birthday

Associated Press
Brian Wilson, 1966

Happy Birthday, Brian Wilson, Co-founder of the Beach Boys

June 20, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
From the living room of his parents’ house to the world stage, Brian Wilson worked to establish the classic California surf sound with his band, the Beach Boys. Wilson is well known for the sunny tunes he wrote, although he has struggled for years to overcome the pain of an abusive childhood.

Early Days

In 1961, when Brian Wilson was 19, his parents took a Labor Day weekend vacation, leaving him and his two younger brothers $250 for expenses, according the Brian Wilson homepage. Wilson and his cousin had written a song for a tryout session in a recording studio. Along with the brothers and a friend, they used the money to buy their own musical equipment and rehearse the song in the Wilson’s Hawthorne, Calif., living room. The Beach Boys were born.

Wilson’s father was abusive, both mentally and physically. “He was a very mean man. He was our (the Beach Boys’) manager when we started but was so hard to live with that we fired him,” Wilson told the New York Times. Some, including Wilson’s wife Melinda Ledbetter, believe the artist’s emotional problems in adulthood were a result of his tempestuous relationship with his father. Wilson is deaf in one ear, which may also have been caused by beatings.

Notable Accomplishments

In 1966, having established themselves as the nation’s favorite surf band, Wilson and The Beach Boys attained pop star status as one of the few bands to give the Beatles competition, says VH1. The Beach Boys had released the hit song “Surfin’ Safari” in 1962, which kicked off Southern California’s burgeoning surf rock scene. In 1964, “I Get Around” became the band’s first number one hit.

After struggling with mental illness and becoming estranged from the Beach Boys, Wilson embarked upon a solo career that culminated with “Smile,” released in 2004, reveals his Rolling Stone biography.

The Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

The Rest of the Story

In 2002, after an extended hiatus and doubts concerning his ability to overcome stage fright, Wilson played concerts in London, the BBC reported. A DVD release of shows from January and July of that year showed Wilson playing his album “Pet Sounds” from beginning to end, and bringing some audience members to tears.

The “Pet Blog” notes that “Pet Sounds” drew praise from some of the music industry’s biggest names, including Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and Elton John. You can watch a YouTube video of Wilson and Al Jardine performing “Pet Sounds” in February 2007.

Wilson’s career has continued into the present. He and his band opened the 2008 Kenwood Concert season, a London outdoor music series. According to his official Web site, he is touring Europe during the summer of 2009, will play in Ireland in September, and is conducting a U.S. tour in 2009.

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