The California sound created in the early '60s by Brian Wilson's Beach Boys evokes carefree beach days, sublime surfing and parties without end.
The reality of Brian Wilson's life has been far different. And not just because he didn't surf.
The Beach Boys included Brian's brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson, both now deceased, and their cousin Mike Love, who now holds the rights to the name Beach Boys.
But Brian was the creative force behind most of the band's hits: "Surfin' Safari," "Help Me Rhonda" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice," to name just a few.
From infancy, Brian led a troubled and painful life. As a toddler, his father, Murry Wilson, beat Brian so brutally that Wilson says the complete loss of hearing in his right ear may be the result of being struck repeatedly in the head.
Murry became the manager of the Beach Boys when they were starting out and Brian has given him some credit for the band's success.
"He took us to a really good recording studio and helped us out a lot," Brian said in a 2006 interview with Ability magazine, which features stories about people with disabilities. "But he was also pretty tough at times. He scared me so much with his yelling — he would be yelling and poking fingers in my chest, screaming, &‘Get in there and kick ass and make a good record.' All I could say was, &‘Ok Dad, all right.'<TH>"
After his early success with the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson fell victim to drug abuse and mental disorders, which landed him in psychiatric hospitals during the '70s.
"I had a rough, rough time of it," he said in an interview with The Press Democrat earlier this month.
With treatment, Wilson, 69, has bounced back. His "mental condition is more stable now than it was," he said. "I'm making progress. I think we're going to do very well this year."
He may not have conquered his demons, but he's found a way to keep them at bay, and will be performing Beach Boys hits with some recent compositions Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Uptown Theatre in Napa.
"This is what people really want — they want the classics," he said.
Asked what he's most proud of, he said, is the song, "California Girls," because "I liked the sound of it."
But it was the multi-layered "Good Vibrations" that put the Beach Boys on the map not just as hitmakers but as game-changers. Wilson used revolutionary studio techniques to achieve a modern sound.
Paul McCartney has been effusive in his admiration for Wilson, saying the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" album inspired late Beatles hits like "Strawberry Fields Forever."
"Some (music magazines) were saying we were rivals," Wilson said of McCartney, "but we really admired each other and inspired each other to make good stuff."
The Rock and Roll Hall of fame called Wilson an "undisputed genius" when the Beach Boys were inducted in 1988. But he's clearly not an egotistical rock star and is grateful to have survived the trauma of his mental illness.
For more than four decades, "I've had auditory hallucinations in my head, all day every day, and I can't get them out," he said.
Wilson began hearing voices in his mid-20s, he said, shortly after he began taking psychedelic drugs.