Cover image for I am Brian Wilson : a memoir
I am Brian Wilson : a memoir
Publication Information:
Boston, MA : Da Capo Press, [2016]

Physical Description:
312 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Fear -- Family -- Foundation -- Home -- Fathers and sons -- Echoes and voices -- Sun -- America -- Time -- Today.
"The memoirs of the legendary co-founder of the Beach Boys offer insights into his difficult relationship with his father, the women in his life, his parenting experiences, and the events that inspired his music,"--NoveList.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Item Note
Book 782.42166 WILSON 1
Book ML420.W5525A3 2016 1
Book ML420.W5525A3 2016 1

On Order

Prescott Public Library1Received on 11/15/16



They say there are no second acts in American lives, and third acts are almost unheard of. That's part of what makes Brian Wilson's story so astonishing.

As a cofounding member of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, Wilson created some of the most groundbreaking and timeless popular music ever recorded. With intricate harmonies, symphonic structures, and wide-eyed lyrics that explored life's most transcendent joys and deepest sorrows, songs like "In My Room," "God Only Knows," and "Good Vibrations" forever expanded the possibilities of pop songwriting. Derailed in the 1970s by mental illness, drug use, and the shifting fortunes of the band, Wilson came back again and again over the next few decades, surviving and-finally-thriving. Now, for the first time, he weighs in on the sources of his creative inspiration and on his struggles, the exhilarating highs and the debilitating lows.

I Am Brian Wilson reveals as never before the man who fought his way back to stability and creative relevance, who became a mesmerizing live artist, who forced himself to reckon with his own complex legacy, and who finally completed Smile , the legendary unfinished Beach Boys record that had become synonymous with both his genius and its destabilization. Today Brian Wilson is older, calmer, and filled with perspective and forgiveness. Whether he's talking about his childhood, his bandmates, or his own inner demons, Wilson's story, told in his own voice and in his own way, unforgettably illuminates the man behind the music, working through the turbulence and discord to achieve, at last, a new harmony.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this charming and powerfully written memoir that will engage a readership beyond the multitude of Beach Boys fans, Wilson honestly tells the story of his life from its humble beginnings in Southern California-where he was raised by a father who routinely demeaned, frightened, and beat him-to becoming a Kennedy Center Honoree for his 50 years of musical contributions to American culture. Despite his fame and success, Wilson comes off as a genuinely modest and gentle soul who, with the help of his second wife, Melinda, has come to terms with his ongoing mental illness, his past failures as a father, and the profoundly sad deaths of his brothers, Dennis and Carl, who, with Wilson, were core members of the Beach Boys. He goes into great detail about how the band's dozens of hits were produced and the many music superstars who added to the lush, complex arrangements Wilson is famous for. He recounts the pain of his many breakdowns and stays in psychiatric hospitals, as well as the nightmare years when Eugene Landy, Wilson's psychologist, brutally took control of the artist's life, forcing him to produce music for financial gain. Wilson's emotional authenticity is beguiling as he takes readers deeply into his mind, voices and all, to describe his unique manifestation of musical genius. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

On a flight to Houston at the end of 1964, a breakthrough year of hits including Fun, Fun, Fun and I Get Around, the voices in Brian Wilson's head became unbearable, prompting the decision to cease touring with the Beach Boys. More at home in the studio, Wilson fought hard to complete Pet Sounds, an album now considered a masterpiece. Plagued by voices of doubt from his dad, the group, the record label, and in his head Wilson attempted to complete SMiLE, but the pressure proved to be too great, sending him into drug-fueled isolation, followed by nine years of bullshit under the tyrannical guardianship of a now infamously unethical psychologist. Wilson finally escaped Dr. Eugene Landry's influence with the help of Melinda, a car salesman who became his wife. He completed SMiLE nearly 40 years later, initiating a new period of creativity. My story is a music story and a family story and a love story, but it's a story of mental illness, too, writes Wilson. Music journalist Greenman helps keep this meandering memoir coherent and poignant.--Segedin, Ben Copyright 2016 Booklist

Kirkus Review

Everyones favorite musical mad scientist reveals a troubled yet hopeful life.Famously, as depicted in the recent film Love Mercy, Wilson stopped touring with his band, the Beach Boys, after suffering a panic attack while on a flight to Houston in 1964. He did not retreatnot yet, anywayfrom music, spending the next year thinking about what kinds of songs he wanted to write and whether pop had any sonic boundaries beyond which one could not travel. I couldnt really think of any limits, he writes, and so emerged Pet Sounds, Good Vibrations, California Girls, and other resonant wonders. At the same time, and ever since, Wilson has battled mental illness, a malady with a clear genetic lineage, as well as the effects of abuse at the hands of his father, his psychiatrist, and the less angelic voices in his head. Chasing down his sonic visions is a matter that Wilson treats with some mystery. As he writes, he saw bits and pieces of melody go swimming by like goldfish: They dart one way and you see a little flash of orange, but you dont really know whether theyre coming or going. Wilson writes as he speaks, haltingly and with a kind of sideways hesitancy born, he tells it, from being deafened by a blow from his fathers fistwhich has had one salutary effect, though giving him a lopsided appearance, namely that he writes in mono: I can only hear out of one side, which means that its already mixed down. Readers seeking a tell-all will find instead delicate, thoughtful reflections on how music is made as well as wistful remembrances of Wilsons dead brothers and band mates Carl and Dennis. When the usual villain of the Beach Boys story, Mike Love, is mentioned, it is only briefly, and then usually in connection to some legal action or another. As a study in creativity, superb, though as memoir, partial and a touch reluctant. Whatever the case, essential for any Beach Boys fan. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

There's not much warmth of the sun in either of these memoirs by the two most high-profile members of the Beach Boys, America's "Beatles"; in fact, if it's good vibrations you're looking for, listen to the band's albums instead. Of the two, Love's memoir is certainly the sunnier, and he strives for a brightness that illuminates the dark corners of his childhood and youth and especially his years working closely with his cousin Brian Wilson in the band. Love recalls the halcyon days of the Beach Boys, especially the very early years when he realized that there was musical "magic in the gene pool" that had to be set free. He cheerfully chronicles his life with the band, from discovering music with Brian and working out harmonies and his role in penning lyrics for some of the band's most recognizable tunes-"I Get Around," "California Girls," and "Good Vibrations," among others-to the impact of the deaths of Carl and Dennis Wilson on the band, his own legal battles to win the right to lost royalties, and his immersion in Eastern spirituality that provides him with the key to his harmonious outlook. Love refuses to see life other than through rainbow-colored glasses, and his cheeriness eventually grates on the heart and soul. By contrast, Wilson's memoir digs deep, with fierce honesty from the opening pages: "My story is a music story, but it's a story of mental illness, too." He describes the ways that mental illness can be both debilitating and inspiring. His recollections move simply from one moment of consciousness to another; he writes only peripherally about his childhood and youth, bringing up memories of those times only where they impinge upon his narrative. Wilson's tortured relationship with his father, Murry, is legendary, and he candidly embraces the difficulties of his times with his father, concluding that he's striving to reconcile his father's anger and doubt with Murry's ability to joke around, his musical gifts, and just how much he meant to the band. Because Wilson meanders through his life and music, his memoir is more difficult to follow and can be tedious and exasperating reading. Verdict Neither of these memoirs brings new insights to the life and music of either musician or to the band. Love's happy-go-lucky tone creates a shallow pool, and Wilson's rambling prose irritates. Yet no library, especially large public facilities, will want to be without these volumes as they relate two sides of life in America's band.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Grayslake, IL © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



My life has been written about over and over again, and that's mostly okay with me. Other people can talk about my life. Sometimes they'll get it right and sometimes they'll get it wrong. For me, when I think back across my own life, there are so many things that are painful. Sometimes I don't like discussing them. Sometimes I don't even like remembering them. But as I get older, the shape of that pain has changed. Sometimes memories come back to me when I least expect them. Maybe that's the only way it works when you've lived the life I've lived: starting a band with my brothers that was managed by my father, watching my father become difficult and then impossible, watching myself become difficult and then impossible, watching women I loved come and go, watching children come into the world, watching my brothers get older, watching them pass out of the world. Some of those things shaped me. Others scarred me. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference. When I watched my father fly into a rage and take swings at me and my brothers, was that shaping or scarring? When we watched him grow frustrated with his day job and take solace in music, was that shaping or scarring? Those are all memories but I can't get to them all at once. I've had a whole lifetime to take them in. Now I have a whole book to put them out there. Excerpted from I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson, Ben Greenman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Overture: Royal Festival Hall, London, 2004p. 1
Chapter 1 Fearp. 9
Chapter 2 Familyp. 33
Chapter 3 Foundationp. 65
Chapter 4 Homep. 101
Chapter 5 Fathers and Sonsp. 129
Chapter 6 Echoes and Voicesp. 163
Chapter 7 Sunp. 217
Chapter 8 Americap. 239
Chapter 9 Timep. 257
Chapter 10 Todayp. 279
Discographyp. 285
Acknowledgmentsp. 305
Creditsp. 308