The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are an American rock band formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. The group’s original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson; their cousin Mike Love; and their friend Al Jardine. Distinguished by their vocal harmonies and early surf songs, they are one of the most influential acts of the rock era. The band drew on the music of jazz-based vocal groups, 1950s rock and roll, and black R&B to create their unique sound, and with Brian as composer, arranger, producer, and de facto leader, often incorporated classical or jazz elements and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways.
The Beach Boys began as a garage band, managed by the Wilsons’ father Murry, with Brian’s increasingly sophisticated music talents dominating their creative direction. In 1963, they gained national prominence with a string of hit records reflecting a southern California youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance, later dubbed the “California Sound”. After 1964, they abandoned beachgoing themes for more personal lyrics and multi-layered sounds. In 1966, the Pet Sounds album and “Good Vibrations” single raised the group’s prestige to the top level of rock innovators and established the band as symbols of the nascent counterculture era. Following the dissolution of the group’s Smile project in 1967, Brian gradually ceded production and songwriting duties to the rest of the band, reducing his input because of mental health and substance abuse issues. The group’s commercial momentum subsequently faltered, and despite efforts to continue their psychedelic ventures, they were dismissed by early rock critics as the archetypal “pop music cop-outs”. Carl became effectively the band’s musical leader in this time, producing the bulk of their albums in the early 1970s. The last time Brian would write and produce virtually an entire LP for the group was The Beach Boys Love You (1977), which is noted for its cult following.
Personal difficulties, creative disagreements, and the continued success of the band’s greatest hits albums precipitated their transition into an oldies act. Since the 1980s, much-publicized legal wrangling over royalties, songwriting credits and use of the band’s name transpired. Dennis drowned in 1983 and Carl died of lung cancer in 1998. After Carl’s death, many live configurations of the band fronted by Mike Love and Bruce Johnston continued to tour into the 2000s while other members pursued solo projects. Even though Wilson and Jardine have not performed with Love and Johnston’s band since their one-off 2012 reunion tour, they remain a part of the Beach Boys’ corporation, Brother Records Inc (BRI).
The Beach Boys are one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful, and widely influential bands of all time. The group had over eighty songs chart worldwide, thirty-six of them US Top 40 hits (the most by an American rock band), four reaching number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The Beach Boys have sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time and are listed at No. 12 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. In 2017, a study of AllMusic’s catalog indicated the Beach Boys as the 6th most frequently cited artist influence in its database. The core quintet of the three Wilsons, Love and Jardine were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.