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. 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 an early 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, later dubbed the “California Sound”. After 1964, 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. 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 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 as an increasingly successful live concert draw. Personal struggles, creative disagreements, and the overshadowing 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, the group’s corporation, Brother Records Inc (BRI), allowed Love to lead a touring band under the “Beach Boys” name. Even though they have not performed together since their 2012 reunion tour, Brian, Jardine, and Love remain a part of BRI and as official members of the band.
The Beach Boys are one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful, and influential bands of all time. They were one of the earliest self-contained rock bands and one of the few US bands who maintained their success before, during and after the 1964 British Invasion. Between the 1960s and 2010s, they had over eighty songs chart worldwide, thirty-six of them in the US Top 40 charts (the most by a US rock band), and four reaching number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. They 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 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.