Brian Douglas Wilson (born June 20, 1942) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer best known for being the multi-tasking leader and co-founder of the Beach Boys. After signing with Capitol Records in 1962, Wilson wrote or co-wrote more than two dozen Top 40 hits for the group. Because of his unorthodox approaches to song composition and arrangement and mastery of recording techniques, he is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and influential creative forces in popular music by critics and musicians alike.〔
In the mid-1960s, Wilson composed, arranged and produced ''Pet Sounds'' (1966), considered one of the greatest albums of all time. The intended follow-up to ''Pet Sounds'', ''Smile'', was cancelled for various reasons, which included Wilson's deteriorating mental health. As he suffered through multiple nervous breakdowns, 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 performing and recording consistently as a solo artist. On the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary, Wilson briefly returned to record and perform with the group. He remains a member of their corporation, Brother Records Incorporated.
Wilson is credited as a major innovator in the field of music production, and as the principal originator of the California Sound. According to Erik Davis, "Not only did () write a soundtrack to the early '60s, but Brian let loose a delicate and joyful art pop unique in music history and presaged the mellowness so fundamental to '70s California pop." ''The A.V. Club'' wrote that Wilson was among "studio rats ... () set the pace for how pop music could and should sound in the Flower Power era: at once starry-eyed and wistful." Only 21 years old when he received the freedom to produce his own records with total creative autonomy, he ignited an explosion of like-minded California producers, supplanting New York as the center of popular records, and becoming the first rock producer to use the studio as a discrete instrument.
His honors include being inducted into the 1988 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and winning Grammy Awards for ''Brian Wilson Presents Smile'' (2004) and ''The Smile Sessions'' (2011). In lists published by ''Rolling Stone'', Wilson ranked 52 for the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" in 2008 and 12 for the "100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time" in 2015. In 2012, music publication ''NME'' ranked Wilson number 8 in its "50 Greatest Producers Ever" list, elaborating "few consider quite how groundbreaking Brian Wilson's studio techniques were in the mid-60s." He is an occasional actor and voice actor, having appeared in television shows, films, and other artists' music videos. His life was portrayed in the 2014 biopic ''Love & Mercy'', which received a wide release in 2015.
Brian Douglas Wilson was born on June 20, 1942, at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, California, the son of Audree Neva (née Korthof) and Murry Wilson. He was the eldest of three boys; his younger brothers were Dennis and Carl. He has English, Swedish, Dutch, German, and Irish ancestry.〔() 〕 When Brian was two, the family moved from Inglewood to 3701 West 119th Street in nearby Hawthorne, California. Speaking of Brian's unusual musical abilities prior to his first birthday, his father said that, as a baby, he could repeat the melody from "When the Caissons Go Rolling Along" after only a few verses had been sung by the father. Murry Wilson said, "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, he was discovered to have extremely diminished hearing in his right ear. The exact cause of this hearing loss is unclear, though theories range from him simply being born partially deaf to a blow to the head from his father, or a neighborhood bully, being to blame.
While Brian's father Murry was ostensibly a reasonable provider, he was often abusive. A minor musician and songwriter, he 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. He 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. He received a Wollensak tape recorder on his 16th birthday, allowing him to experiment with recording songs and early group vocals.
His 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 Keith 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 frequent singing partner Mike Love as well as his own brother Carl, Brian's next public performance featured more ambitious arrangements at a fall arts program at his high school. To entice Carl into the group, Brian 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 which it made on another musician and classmate of Brian in the audience that night, Al Jardine, who would join the three Wilson brothers and Mike Love in the Beach Boys.
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