Wilson, Brian (Douglas )
- Ryan R. McNutt
(b Inglewood, CA, June 20, 1942). American songwriter and producer. As the musical leader of the Beach boys during the 1960s, Wilson penned a series of massively successful hits that expanded the sound palette of radio pop. Though he subsequently struggled with mental illness and drug abuse, a late career revival brought with it recognition as one of the most important popular songwriters of the 20th century.
Wilson and his younger brothers Dennis and Carl grew up in Hawthorne, California. Their father Murray Wilson, occasionally abusive, strongly pushed his sons towards musical endeavors, making particular note of Brian’s talent with harmony and piano. In high school the brothers recruited cousin Mike Love to be part of a singing group; classmate Al Jardine, joined shortly thereafter. Eventually given the name the Beach Boys, the group signed with Capitol Records in 1962.
Over the next two years, the group would release nine albums, all but two of which were produced by Wilson—a rare privilege for a popular recording artist at the time, but granted due to the group’s astoundingly rapid success. His sound, noted for both studio perfectionism and immaculate vocal harmonies, was equally influenced by Phil Spector and Chuck Berry. Wilson wrote or cowrote nearly all of the band’s material, with songs like “Surfin’ USA,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” and “I Get Around” becoming touchstones of American mass culture in the early 1960s. However, the pressure of recording and touring, combined with stage fright, led to a nervous breakdown in ...