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I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir

I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir

5.0 1
by Brian Wilson

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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 co-founding 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


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 co-founding 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 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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Alan Light
What makes someone want to, or need to, be a musician? What combination of vision, madness, focus, genetics creates a life driven by sound? The troubled, brilliant, oft-mythologized Wilson makes for a particularly intriguing case study, and if his memoir doesn't add up to a grand unified theory, it does offer some fascinating glimpses under the hood…At its best, I Am Brian Wilson has an odd, unpredictable rhythm, looping back to a few touchstone events…and jumping back and forth through time with thoughts that aren't always linear. It's in the throwaway moments that Wilson fleetingly snaps into focus.
Publishers Weekly
★ 09/12/2016
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.)
Kirkus Review
★ 2016-08-02
Everyone’s 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 retreat—not yet, anyway—from 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 couldn’t 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 don’t really know whether they’re 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 father’s fist—which 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 it’s 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 Wilson’s 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.
From the Publisher
"[A] must-read for any Beach Boys fan, packed with never-before-seen personal photos and incredible anecdotes."

Over Sixty

"[Wilson] tells his story with incredible intensity, candidness, and humor...It is as if we are having an extended and intimate conversation with Wilson...There has been a veritable avalanche of autobiographies and memoirs from aging rockers in recent years as they begin to contemplate their place in rock history. I Am Brian Wilson takes its hard-earned place in the front of these books. It is not to be missed."

Washington Independent Review of Books

"Touchingly modest...From the start you know you're in for something special...Honest and affecting."

The Spectator (UK)

"A fascinating story of one of the greatest music icons. Wilson tells his story of his life and music in a most gripping way. He gives background to many of iconic songs and shines light on the people he worked with. It is veritably the story of his songs. Music lovers will not be able to put it down once they start reading it."

Washington Book Review

Product Details

Da Capo Press
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6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Brian Wilson, best known for his work with the Beach Boys, is one of popular music's most revered figures. The main creative force behind some of the most cherished recordings in rock history and one of the most influential composers of the last century, Wilson became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2007. A father of seven, he lives with his wife in Beverly Hills, California.

Ben Greenman is a contributing writer to the New Yorker and a New York Times bestselling author who has written both fiction and nonfiction. He collaborated with Questlove on the hip-hop memoir Mo' Meta Blues and he cowrote George Clinton's memoir Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You? He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

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I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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