Brian Wilson is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame who performed on the Ed Sullivan and T.A.M.I. shows; won a pair of Grammy awards; been honoured by the Kennedy Center; and received kudos from Elton, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney.
But the co-founder of the Beach Boys has also struggled with mental illness, personal loss (including the premature deaths of his brothers Dennis and Carl), weight problems and drugs, particularly those prescribed by an over-controlling doctor.
The composer is now sharing his trials and triumphs in his autobiography, written with New York Times bestselling author Ben Greenman. I Am Brian Wilson, available from October 11th, contains myriad details about how his songs were written and recorded. Among them are Good Vibrations; Help Me, Ronda (which became Help Me, Rhonda); Caroline, No; God Only Knows (which Elton sang at a Radio City Music Hall tribute); and What I Really Want For Christmas, which Bernie Taupin worked on. Brian even once wrote a song with his father, who helped with his career, but who could also be abusive. There are also revelations about compositions Wilson has re-worked, from a Bahamian folk ballad originally called The John B. Sails to Elton and Tim Rice’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight.
The book’s most entertaining parts tend to be the unexpected: Brian running a health food store; meeting Bob Dylan in an ER; or arranging with Michael Jackson to have one of his children’s birthday parties at Neverland Ranch – years after Elton sent another daughter, also turning six, a note and teddy bear. Others making cameos include John Phillips, playing basketball, and Shaun Cassidy, eliciting screams from the excited girls.
Particularly noteworthy is the musician’s visit to a car dealership, where he became more entranced by one of the employees than any of their vehicles.
The attraction was mutual, and Melinda, to whom the book is dedicated, became Brian’s wife and soulmate.