When I’m 61

When we noted the 61st birthday of Paul McCartney on Wednesday, one of our most distinguished readers wrote to note that Brian Wilson’s birthday is today. He too turns 61 today. Unlike McCartney, whose genius was sustained in a musical partnership with John Lennon, Brian Wilson was the lone musical genius who created the sound and the best songs of the Beach Boys.
In mid-60’s singles like “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Good Vibrations” and at greater length on albums like “Summer Days (and Summer Nights)” and “The Beach Boys Today,” Wilson explored the possibilities of group harmony in pop music. Both albums are full of breathtakingly beautiful, impossibly romantic pop songs. The productions are so wonderully crafted, you can feel the perfectionism that (combined with an abusive father and hallucinogenic drugs) fueled his subsequent nervous breakdown.
Before the breakdown, however, came the full flowering of Wilson’s genius in “Pet Sounds,” the consummate Beach Boys album that powerfully expressed (with help from Tony Asher on the lyrics) Wilson’s deepest yearnings with a moving spiritual twist. It was the album that gave Paul McCartney the idea to have the Beatles create an album around a theme — the album that became “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Happy birthday to Brian.
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