Friday, March 27, 2009

A Tribute To Carl Wilson

Carl Wilson, the youngest of the three Wilson brothers who formed the core of The Beach Boys, died of cancer in 1998 at age 51 effectively ending the group as its fans knew it.

Even though there were times he too succumbed to the excesses of the rock 'n roll lifestyle, Carl was always considered the most level-headed of the brothers. It was primarily due to his efforts that the Beach Boys survived well into the 90's.

Carl played a pivotal role in the the band's overall sound. His vocal range was almost as wide as Brian's but he sang with a more soulful voice. When the Beach Boys wanted a more R&B feel to their songs Carl, not Brian, sang lead. While not discounting Brian's vocal work, composing, arranging, and overall leadership of the group, I always preferred Carl's lead vocals over his big brother's. His voice was more naturally appealing than Brian's. He didn't have to a use a falsetto, as Brian did, to elicit the same emotions from the listener. Just listen closely to the songs listed at the end of this article and you will understand just how passionate his vocals were. He never sounded as if he was only in it for the money. Are you listening Mike Love?

Carl also played lead guitar for the band. His Chuck Berry style guitar solo that opens "Fun, Fun, Fun" has become legendary.

Unfortunately, The Beach Boys split into three separate entities after Carl died. Love and Bruce Johnston continue to tour under the Beach Boys name, Al Jardine tours with his Endless Summer Band, and Brian now tours and records as a solo act. Even so, we should not lament. How many musical groups remained virtually in tact with their core members still together after 35 years? The Beach Boys played and sang to us for a long, long, time.

In the early 80s, fed up with the Beach Boys being nothing more than an oldies act, Carl took a hiatus from the band and recorded two solo albums. They were not warmly received. The covers of both Carl Wilson, 1981, and Youngblood, 1983, can be seen here. Quite a few years later he teamed up with Chicago's Robert Lamm and America's Gerry Beckley to record Like A Brother. Carl is the star of this CD, trumping almost everything Lamm and Beckley wrote for the sessions. The disc was not released until 2000, two years after his passing.

Here is another Tribute to Carl that echoes many of my sentiments.

Carl Wilson's Top 10 Lead Vocals (in chronological order) And The Album On Which They Originally Appeared

Girl Don't Tell Me (Summer Days & Summer Nights) 1965
God Only Knows (Pet Sounds) 1966
Good Vibrations (Smiley Smile) 1967
Wild Honey (Wild Honey) 1967
I Was Made To Love Her (Wild Honey) 1967
Darlin' (Wild Honey) 1967
I Can Hear Music (20/20) 1969
Long Promised Road (Surf's Up) 1972
Feel Flows (Surf's Up) 1972
The Trader (Holland) 1973


  1. This was great, I actually got a little emotional reading it. The Beach Boys are local guys to most of So Cal people. They would play everywhere and often after their mega-popularity subsided a bit. So sad that two of them are gone :(

  2. Yeah, great post. Carl was aways my favourite. I remember seeing a TV documentary some time back (Endless summer?) where Carl sings 'God Only Knows' to Brian's piano accompaniment. It could've been awful - two old men trying to live old times - but it wasn't. It made the hairs on my neck stand up. What a voice. What passion.

    RIP Carl.