When I’m 62

We misssed Paul McCartney’s birthday this past Friday when he turned 62. Today Brian Wilson turns 62 as well. Below are the brief notices we posted in their honor last year.
As an addled teenager, I studied political philosophy at the feet of John Lennon. But the team of Lennon/McCartney — as singers, songwriters, and instinctive harmonists — was the organic entity that made the Beatles.
We celebrate Paul McCartney’s birthday. Bring to mind any one of his tough, beautiful, moving songs — “Things We Said Today,” “We Can Work It Out,” “What You’re Doing,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “Penny Lane,” “Blackbird,” your own personal favorite. Recall the closing words of his throwaway rocker off the “White Album” — “I’m glad it’s your birthday/Happy birthday to you.”
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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