CARL WILSON Biography - Musicians


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Name: Carl Wilson                                                                       
Birth name: Carl Dean Wilson                                                             
Born: 21 December 1946 Hawthorne, California                                             
Died: 6 February 1998 Los Angeles, California                                           
Carl Dean Wilson (December 21, 1946 - February 6, 1998) was an American rock and         
roll singer and guitarist, best known as the co-founder and lead guitarist of           
The Beach Boys, with his older brothers Brian Wilson and Dennis Wilson.                 
Wilson played the Chuck Berry-esque guitar parts on many of the band's early             
hits. Because the band first became successful when he was in his teens, he was         
still developing as a musician and singer. His lead vocals in the band's first           
three years included "Summertime Blues" (duet with David Marks), "Louie, Louie"         
(splitting the lead with Mike Love), "Pom Pom Play Girl," "All Dressed Up for           
School", and "Girl Don't Tell Me". When the band started being augmented or             
replaced by session musicians on many of their mid-'60s recordings (they                 
contributed the majority of the instrumental work themselves on the early-'60s           
recordings), Carl recorded his guitar leads during the Beach Boys vocal sessions,       
with his guitar plugged directly into the soundboard, and unlike the other               
members of the band often played side by side in the studio with the session             
pros that Brian increasingly turned to from 1964 onward.                                 
By the mid-1960s, he had become a far stronger vocalist and an accomplished live         
performer, and following his masterly lead on "God Only Knows" in 1966, was             
often featured as lead vocalist for the band (a role previously dominated by             
Mike Love and Brian Wilson), singing many leads on the Smiley Smile and Wild             
Honey albums, including the hit singles "Good Vibrations," "Darlin'," and "Wild         
Honey," then on 1969's "I Can Hear Music," which served as Carl's first major           
studio production. After his elder brother Brian's retirement from the stage in         
1965, Carl became the de facto leader of the band onstage (contracts at that             
time reading that promoters hired 'Carl Wilson plus four other musicians'), and         
shortly after became the band's in-studio leader, producing the bulk of the             
albums 20/20, Sunflower, Surf's Up, Carl and the Passions - "So Tough" (named in         
honour of his effective leadership of the band at this point) and Holland. With         
the exception of the uneven "So Tough", these albums are now generally                   
considered among the band's best, both by fans and critics.                             
In the late 1960s Wilson also made headlines as a conscientious objector to the         
Vietnam War, at one point having to let the rest of the band tour the UK without         
him while he was up before the draft board.                                             
Never a prolific songwriter, Wilson's first solo composing contributions to the         
band, other than a handful of early surf instrumentals, came with 1971's Surf's         
Up, on which he composed "Long Promised Road" and "Feel Flows" to lyrics by the         
band's then manager Jack Rieley. He had earlier been given cowriting credits on         
a few songs, but these appear to have been for arrangement ideas contributed to         
others' songs - he considered "Long Promised Road" his first real song. On the           
immediately following Beach Boys albums he would average one or two songs,               
cowritten with various lyricists or other members of the band. Carl's leadership         
role in the band diminished somewhat in the late '70s, both due to Brian's brief         
reemergence as the band's producer and substance abuse problems. He nonetheless         
remained a prominent and recognizable voice in the band, taking lead vocals on           
many songs and serving as "mixdown producer" on the Brian-produced Love You             
By the time of recording of 1979's L.A. (Light Album), Carl had overcome his             
drug problems and again found himself filling the vocal and songwriting gap left         
by a retreating Brian Wilson. A song he wrote with Brian in 1974, "Good Timin'",         
was a Top 40 American hit from that album, and features a rare Brian-like lead           
falsetto line from Carl (despite Carl's impressive range, he generally sang low         
midrange harmony in the band's vocal arrangements). The song and its soaring             
vocal are considered to be a late period high point for the band.                       
During the 1970s Wilson also produced records for several other artists, notably         
Ricci Martin (son of Dean Martin, not to be confused with the late-'90s pop star)       
and South African group The Flame (two members of whom went on to be members of         
the Beach Boys for a couple of years, before becoming successful musicians               
performing with people like The Rutles, Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones). He         
also occasionally appeared on others' records as a backing vocalist, most               
notably appearing on Chicago's Wishing You Were Here (with brother Dennis Wilson         
and bandmate Alan Jardine). He is widely regarded to have had one of the finest         
voices in rock and his voice appears as a backing vocal on many recordings by           
groups and solo singers. Examples include Chicago's hit "Baby, What A Big               
Surprise", Elton John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" (with then former-bandmate     
Bruce Johnston) and David Lee Roth's hit cover of "California Girls."