Carl Wilson, who with his brothers Brian and Dennis founded The Beach Boys in 1961, has died from complications arising from lung cancer. He was 51. Wilson died in hospital in Los Angeles on Friday evening (February 6) attended by his wife Gina (daughter of Dean Martin) and his two sons.
The group’s publicist Alyson Dutch said Wilson (pictured here during the early ’70s) had been diagnosed last year with cancer of the lung but still insisted on touring with the group while undergoing chemotherapy. A private funeral is planned for this week, Dutch said.
Last year, The Beach Boys undertook their 36th anniversary tour and at the time of Carl’s death, the group were lining up a 1998 US tour to be accompanied by a symphony orchestra.
Carl Wilson was the youngest and initially the most reluctant member of the Beach Boys. When he was 14, he and his brothers Dennis (then 16) and Brian (19) were asked to sing at the Hawthorne high school in California. Legend has it that Carl was unwilling to perform. As encouragement, older brother Brian christened the band Carl And The Passions for their performance. The name would eventually resurface as a Beach Boys album 20 years later.
Carl’s influence on the band was felt in the quality of his harmonies – like Brian, he had perfect pitch – more than his songwriting which, in the band’s early days, was the preserve of brother Brian. He was instrumental in turning the Gershwin obsessed Brian Wilson – whom he idolised – on to Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Berry’s influence can be clearly heard in the guitar solo on The Beach Boys ‘Surfin’ USA’.
As Brian Wilson’s mental health deteriorated from the mid-’60s onwards, Carl’s input into the band grew. He contributed a number of songs to the ‘Surf’s Up’ album and produced the 1972 LP ‘Holland’.
Carl continued to tour on and off with the band until 1981 when he left to record an eponymously titled solo album. He returned to the band full time after Dennis Wilson’s drowning accident in 1983. The Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 1988 – the year they enjoyed their last US Number One, ‘Kokomo’.