Brian Wilson facts: Looking back at the Beach Boys legend's life and career

2 July 2020, 16:38

Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Brian Wilson is one of the true greats of pop and rock history, and one of the most gifted musicians of his generation.

The Beach Boys co-founder was the chief songwriter of the legendary group's biggest hits, and he ended up influencing countless artists that came after him.

Here are all the important and fascinating facts about Brian Wilson that every fan should know:

  1. Who is Brian Wilson?

    Brian Wilson is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is most famous for co-founding the Beach Boys.

    Wilson wrote or co-wrote more than two dozen international hits for the group, including 'Good Vibrations' and 'God Only Knows'.

    Read more: Brian Wilson performs 'God Only Knows' at home - video

    He is known for his unorthodox approaches to writing pop music, for his expert use of recording techniques. He has also battled lifelong mental illness.

    He is generally considered to be one of the most innovative songwriters of the 20th century.

  2. How old is Brian Wilson and where is he from?

    Brian Wilson
    Brian Wilson. Picture: Getty

    Brian Wilson was born on June 20, 1942, and celebrated his 78th birthday in 2020.

    He was born in Inglewood, California, and was the eldest son of Audree Neva and Murry Wilson, a musician and machinist.

    His two younger brothers were Dennis and Carl, who were also members of the Beach Boys.

    Brian's 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 to him.

    Aged just two, Wilson heard George Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue', and that moment changed his life forever.

    At a young age, he was discovered to have poor hearing in his right ear. The exact cause of this hearing loss is unknown, with theories ranging from him being born partially deaf, to a blow to the head from his father, or a neighborhood bully.

  3. When did he form the Beach Boys?

    Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Carl Wilson and Brian Wilson
    Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Carl Wilson and Brian Wilson. Picture: Getty

    Aged 16, Brian Wilson was sharing a bedroom with his brothers, Dennis and Carl – aged 13 and 11, respectively.

    After watching his father play piano and listening to the harmonies of vocal groups such as the Four Freshmen, Brian would teach family members how to sing the background harmonies.

    Read more: The Beach Boys' best ever songs

    For his birthday, Brian received a reel-to-reel tape recorder. He taught himself how to overdub, using his vocals and those of Carl and their mother.

    Family gatherings brought the Wilsons closer with cousin Mike Love. Later, Brian, Love and two friends performed at a high school concert.

    Brian also knew Al Jardine, a high school classmate. Brian suggested to Jardine that they team up with his cousin and brother Carl. Love then gave the new band its name: 'The Pendletones', a pun on 'Pendleton', a style of woolen shirt.

    Dennis was the only surfer in the group, and he suggested that the group write songs that celebrated surfing and the lifestyle in Southern California.

  4. What health issues has he had and who was Eugene Landy?

    Brian Wilson and Eugene Landy
    Brian Wilson and Eugene Landy. Picture: Getty

    After his father's death in 1973, Wilson secluded himself in the chauffeur's quarters of his house, where he spent most of his time sleeping, drinking, doing drugs, overeating, and other self-destructive behaviour.

    He also attempted to drive his car off a cliff, and demanded that he be pushed into and buried in a grave that he had dug.

    Wilson became a patient under psychotherapist Eugene Landy's program in 1975. In 1982, Landy was re-employed as Wilson's therapist, and also became his executive producer, business manager, co-songwriter, and business adviser.

    Landy went on to co-produce Wilson's debut solo album Brian Wilson in 1988 and its unreleased follow-up Sweet Insanity, as well as allegedly ghostwriting chapters of Wilson's disowned memoir Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story.

    Brian Wilson in 1982
    Brian Wilson in 1982. Picture: Getty

    In 1989, Landy agreed to let the state of California revoke his professional license due to accusations of ethical violations and patient misconduct. Wilson continued to see Landy a restraining order in 1992 stopped Landy from contacting him ever again.

    Wilson soon started receiving normal medical treatment and, by the late 1990s, he started performing and recording again as a solo artist.

    He is diagnosed as a schizoaffective with mild manic depression. He regularly experiences auditory hallucinations.

  5. Is he married and does he have any children?

    Brian and wife Melinda in 2007
    Brian and wife Melinda in 2007. Picture: Getty

    From 1964 to 1979, Wilson was married to Marilyn Rovell.

    They had two daughters together: Carnie and Wendy, who went on to form two-thirds of the Wilson Phillips.

    In 1995, Wilson married Melinda Kae Ledbetter, a car saleswoman and former model. They met in 1986, but Landy put an end to their relationship. Wilson and Ledbetter reconnected in 1992, and married three years later.

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