Sunday, February 6, 2011

Feb. 6: Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys (lead singer on "Good Vibrations") died on this date in 1998...

... he was 51 years-old when he died from cancer.

Carl is considered by many as an important singer in the history of rock music. Carl was singer and guitarist and founding member with The Beach Boys. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. He was the younger brother of fellow Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Dennis Wilson.
Wilson played the lead guitar on many of the Beach Boys' band's early hits. Because the band first became successful when he was in his teens, he was still developing as a musician and singer. His lead vocals in the band's first three years included "Summertime Blues" (duet with David Marks), "Louie, Louie" (splitting the lead with Mike Love), "Pom Pom Play Girl," "All Dressed Up for School," and "Girl Don't Tell Me."
While they supplied the majority of the instrumental work themselves on the early-'60s recordings, the band started using studio musicians on many of their mid-'60s recordings. Unlike the other members of the band, Carl often played side by side in the studio with the session pros or recorded his guitar leads during the Beach Boys vocal sessions, with his guitar plugged directly into the soundboard.

Following his performance of the lead vocal on "God Only Knows" in 1966, Carl was increasingly featured as lead vocalist for the band, unlike earlier when Mike Love and Brian Wilson sang most of the leads. Carl sang most leads on the Smiley Smile and Wild Honey albums, including the hit singles "Good Vibrations," "Darlin'," and "Wild Honey," then on 1969's "I Can Hear Music," which served as Carl's first major studio production.

After his elder brother Brian's retirement from the stage in 1965, Carl became the de facto leader of the band onstage, and shortly after became the band's in-studio leader, producing the bulk of the albums 20/20, Sunflower, Surf's Up, Carl and the Passions - So Tough  and Holland.

YoungbloodPet SoundsThe Beach Boys - Good Timin' (Live at Knebworth, England 1980)Rock 'N' Roll All Star Jam

Never a prolific songwriter, Wilson's first solo composing contributions to the band, other than a handful of early surf instrumentals, came with 1971's Surf's Up, on which he composed "Long Promised Road" and "Feel Flows" to lyrics by the band's then manager Jack Rieley.

He had earlier been given co-writing credits on a few songs, but these appear to have been for arrangement ideas contributed to others' songs - he considered "Long Promised Road" his first real song.

On the immediately following Beach Boys albums, he would average one or two songs, co-written with other lyricists or members of the band. Carl's leadership role in the band diminished somewhat in the late '70s, both due to Brian's brief reemergence as the band's producer and substance abuse problems.
He nonetheless remained a prominent and recognizable voice in the band, taking lead vocals on many songs and serving as "mix-down producer" on the Brian-produced Love You album.

By the time of recording of 1979's L.A., Carl again found himself filling the vocal and songwriting gap left by Brian Wilson. A song he wrote with Brian in 1974 and sang lead on, "Good Timin'", was a Top 40 American hit from that album.
During the 1970s Wilson also produced records for several other artists.

By the early 1980s Carl took a leave of absence in 1981 due to frustrations with the band's sluggishness to record new material and reluctance to rehearse for live shows. He did not want to part of what he saw increasingly becoming a nostalgia act.

He released a solo album, Carl Wilson, which was well received by reviewers. He recorded a second solo album, Youngblood, in 1983,  but by the time he had already rejoined The Beach Boys.

Carl & The Passions - So Tough / HollandSounds Of Summer - The Very Best Of The Beach BoysBeach Boys - 20 Good Vibrations, The Greatest Hits (Volume 1)

Although Youngblood did not chart, a single, the John Hall-written "What You Do To Me," did, making Carl only the second Beach Boy to land a solo single on the Billboard Hot 100. Carl frequently performed that song and "Rockin' All Over the World" from the album, as well as "Heaven" from the 1981 album at Beach Boys concerts in the '80s; the latter as a tribute to brother Dennis after his death in December 1983.

The Beach Boys' self-titled 1985 album featured many of Carl's lead vocals and songwriting, highlighted by his "It's Gettin' Late" and  "Heaven"-like "Where I Belong."

At this point, Mike Love became more prominent, and Carl less so. He still remained an important part of the band as a performer, singing lead on the chorus of the band's last big success, 1988's US number one "Kokomo." He carried on touring with the band until the last months of his life.
Carl was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in early 1997. Despite his illness and chemotherapy treatments, Carl continued to perform. He played through the Beach Boys' entire summer tour which ended in the fall of 1997. He sat down most of the time and needed oxygen after every song, but he still had his unique voice.

The only time he stood during concerts was when he sang "God Only Knows."


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