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, they often incorporated classical elements and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways.
The Beach Boys began as a garage band led by Brian and managed by the Wilsons’ father Murry. In 1963, the band gained national prominence with a string of top-ten singles reflecting a southern California youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance, dubbed the “California Sound”. From 1965, they abandoned beachgoing themes for more personal lyrics and ambitious orchestrations. In 1966, the Pet Sounds album and “Good Vibrations” single raised the group’s prestige as rock innovators and established the band as symbols of the nascent counterculture era. After scrapping the album Smile in 1967, Brian’s contributions diminished due to his mental health issues. The group’s commercial momentum faltered, and despite efforts to maintain an experimental sound, they were dismissed by early rock critics as the archetypal “pop music cop-outs”.
Carl took over as the band’s musical leader until the late 1970s, during which they rebounded with successful worldwide concert tours. Personal struggles, creative disagreements, and the overshadowing success of the band’s greatest hits albums precipitated their transition into an oldies act. Dennis drowned in 1983 and Brian soon became estranged from the group. Between the 1990s and 2000s, the members filed numerous lawsuits over royalties, defamation, songwriting credits, and use of the band’s name. Following Carl’s death from lung cancer in 1998, the group and its corporation (Brother Records Inc.) granted Love legal rights to tour as “the Beach Boys”. As of 2020, Brian and Jardine do not perform with Love’s Beach Boys, but remain official members of the band.
Brian Douglas Wilson (born June 20, 1942) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer who co-founded the Beach Boys. After signing with Capitol Records in 1962, Wilson wrote or co-wrote more than two dozen Top 40 hits for the group. In addition to his unorthodox approaches to pop composition and mastery of recording techniques, Wilson is known for his lifelong struggles with mental illness. He is often referred to as a genius and is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and significant songwriters of the late 20th century.
Michael Edward Love (born March 15, 1941) is an American singer and songwriter who co-founded the Beach Boys. Characterized by his nasal and sometimes baritone singing, Love has been one of the band’s vocalists and lyricists for their entire career, contributing to each of their studio albums and serving as their frontman for live performances. He is the cousin of bandmates Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, (his mother was a Wilson), and is often regarded as a malign figure in the group’s history, a reputation he acknowledges: “For those who believe that Brian walks on water, I will always be the Antichrist.”
Alan Charles Jardine (born September 3, 1942) is an American musician, singer, and songwriter who co-founded the Beach Boys. He is best known as the band’s rhythm guitarist and for occasionally singing lead vocals on songs such as “Help Me, Rhonda” (1965), “Then I Kissed Her” (1965), and “Come Go with Me” (1978). His song “Lady Lynda” became a UK top 10 hit for the group in 1978.
Bruce Arthur Johnston (born Benjamin Baldwin; June 27, 1942) is an American singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer best known as a member of the Beach Boys. In 1965, Johnston joined the band for live performances, filling in for the group’s co-founder Brian Wilson, who had quit touring in order to spend more time in the studio. Johnston then became a contributing member on subsequent albums. His songs for the Beach Boys include “Tears in the Morning” (1970), “Deirdre” (1970), and “Disney Girls (1957)” (1971). He served as a producer for the Beach Boys albums L.A. (Light Album) (1979) and Keepin’ the Summer Alive (1980). Johnston is also known for his early 1960s collaborations with Terry Melcher as Bruce & Terry and with the surf band the Rip Chords, as well as composing the 1975 Barry Manilow hit, “I Write the Songs”. He continues to tour as a member of the Beach Boys alongside band co-founder Mike Love.
Carl Dean Wilson (December 21, 1946 – February 6, 1998) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter who co-founded the Beach Boys. He is best remembered as their lead guitarist, as the youngest brother of bandmates Brian and Dennis Wilson, and as the group’s de facto leader in the early 1970s. He was also the band’s musical director on stage from 1965 until his death.
Dennis Carl Wilson (December 4, 1944 – December 28, 1983) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter who co-founded the Beach Boys. He is best remembered as their drummer and as the middle brother of bandmates Brian and Carl Wilson. Dennis was the only true surfer in the Beach Boys, and his personal life exemplified the “California Myth” that the band’s early songs often celebrated. He was also known for his association with Charles Manson, a cult leader and songwriter later convicted of several murders, and for co-starring in the 1971 film Two-Lane Blacktop.