Brian WilsonSmilin' with Brian Wilson
By Naughty Mickie

I was thrilled earlier this year to be given the opportunity to interview Brian Wilson. You may recognize him as a lead songwriter, lead singer and bassist for the Beach Boys, but age 64 finds him with a lot more under his belt as he has made his mark also as a producer, composer and arranger. Wilson's early influences included the Four Freshmen and Chuck Berry. A perfectionist in the studio, he was one of the first to uses an eight-channel multi track tape recorder, but did not care for stereophonic sound. Like Phil Spector, whom he considered a mentor, he preferred to work in monaural. This was not due to his partial deafness, but rather because he felt stereo sounded incomplete if the listener wasn't directly between the speakers.

Wilson formed the Beach Boys in the early '60s with brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and school friend Al Jardine (briefly replaced by David Marks) Originally they were called the Pendletones, but were renamed by Russ Regan, who promoted their first single, "Surfin'." The band didn't learn of the name change until they saw the single's label.

In 1965 Wilson wanted to devote himself to writing new material and felt he could not do that and play live as well, so Glen Campbell took his place in the Beach Boys for three months. Campbell left to pursue a solo career and Bruce Johnston stepped in. Wilson wrote hits for the Beach Boys from 1962-67 and produced records for other artists, such as Glen Campbell and the Honeys and co-wrote for Jan and Dean.

The Beach Boys and the Beatles were rivals, but later the Beatles cited Wilson's work as a major influence. Wilson and Paul McCartney also became friends. McCartney has been cited often stating that Wilson's "God Only Knows" is the greatest song ever written. Wilson's "Pet Sounds" (which McCartney claims inspired "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band") has been named the one of the best pop albums ever recorded by many polls and placed second on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

From 1968-1970 Wilson began relinquishing Beach Boys production duties to Carl and his writing slowed to a near stop. And in 1975 his wife and family joined with therapist Eugene Landy to help him out of his funk (he had stayed mainly in his bedroom for five years) and become productive again. By 1982, his health and mental state were precarious again and Landy stepped in to help and by 1985, he joined the Beach Boys on stage in Live Aid and recorded a new album, "The Beach Boys," with them. He then stopped working with them regularly.

In 1988 Wilson went solo and released, "Brian Wilson," plus the memoir, "Wouldn't It Be Nice- My Own Story." He married Melinda Ledbetter in 1995 and adopted girls Daria and Delanie and in 2004 son Dylan. Has two daughters from first marriage to Marilyn Rovell - Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson- he released "The Wilsons" with them in 1997.

Wilson took part in a charity drive to aid Hurricane Katrina victims in Sept. 2005 and performed for Live 8 concert in Germany in July 2005. For Hurricane Katrina, a system was arranged that fans who donated $100 or more would receive a personal phone call from Wilson. He has also lent his talents to participate in Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit Concert, the school aids children with severe speech and physical impairments participate fully in community activities, and the 12th Annual Music Festival for Mental Health at Staglin Family Vineyard. Wilson helps Adopt-A-Minefield and the Carl Wilson Foundation for cancer research as well.

 In 2006, he kicked off a tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Pet Sounds" backed by 12-member band, including Al Jardine. That same year, Wilson was inducted into UK Music Hall of Fame.This year found him planning to debut "That Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative)," a piece with four rounds interspersed with spoken word, at Royal Festival Hall, London, England. He has also been on tour performing newer material, as well as tunes from his classic "Smile" and "Pet Sounds."

DB: What music are you listening to today?

BW: I still listen to Paul McCartney and the Beatles, I don't listen to modern music.

DB: Do you listen to anything else?

BW: I listen to Paul McCartney and myself, I listen to my own music.

DB: You are considered a rock icon, how would you characterize your contribution to music?

BW: I contributed a lot of good harmonies, good vocals, good songs, good production, I thought I did all four of those really well.

DB: Is there anyone you would like to play or collaborate with that you haven't yet?

BW:  No. I've collaborated with (Paul) McCartney, (Tony) Asher, Bernie Taupin, Van Dyke Parks, Mike Love. I've collaborated with a lot of people.

DB: Do you still have emerging artists or producers ask you for advice?

BW:  Not for advice, but for autographs.

DB: What do you dislike most about the music industry?

BW: The most I miss about it is the '60s and '70s. There's no soul, there's no feeling to the music these days. There's virtually no soul.

DB: Are you working on any new music?

BW:  I'm currently writing a new narrative concept with a theme song and some individual records, like eight or ten records. We're going to take that to London in September.

DB: How do you write?

BW: Most of my writing is done in the morning and at night. I feel more creative in the morning and the night time than I do in the middle of the day. When I'm sleeping sometimes I'll hear a melody in my head and I'll wake up and go to the piano and put it on my tape recorder so I don't forget it.

DB: Which do you write first, the music or the lyrics?

BW: The music always comes first, then the words will come out.

DB: Tell me about your charity work.

Beach BoysBW: We get involved in three or four charities a year, various different charities. We did a charity up north in the vineyard country, we did a charity with preschool with Neil Young and then we raised money for the Katrina disaster. We raised $250,000 last year.

DB: Do you encourage others to participate in charity?

BW:  No I don't. I don't encourage other artists, they should encourage themselves.

DB: To what do you attribute your staying power in the industry?

BW:  I have a lot of guts. It takes guts to carry on when you don't feel as spectacular mentally as you could, but I feel good. Actually, I'm doing very well to be honest.

DB: Why do you think your music remains popular?

BW:  Because it had good harmonies and good vocals and good songs.

DB: What was your reaction to the National Association of Recording Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame placing "Pet Sounds" on the "Definitive 200" list?

BW:  I'm very proud of "Pet Sounds," I think it's one of the great albums of all times. It's always enjoyable to listen to even 40 years later. And I'm proud to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

DB: What kinds of hobbies do you have when you're not busy with your music?

BW:  My hobbies are exercise and going out to eat with my family and going to parties and stuff like that. I walk anywhere from two to five miles a day in a park. I walk around the peripheries on a sidewalk path around the park. Two times around is a mile.

DB: What are your plans for the future?

BW:  We're going to premiere that "Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative)" concept to the London audiences and see if they give it a standing ovation or not like they did with "Smile." Wouldn't that be something?

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