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brian wilson :: Blog

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "God Only Knows"

Friday, May 16: 4:51 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Inspired by the Beatles' Rubber Soul album, Brian Wilson responded with Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys' masterpiece. And like many other prescient works through the ages, it puzzled the public.

While hardly a commercial failure-it hit Top Ten and spawned two Top Ten singles-it performed poorly by Beach Boy standards, failing to sell gold. Coming immediately after the carefree (and more popular) Beach Boys' Party, Pet Sounds was all the more confusing.

"God Only Knows" exemplifies Pet Sounds in its confessional tone and sensitive arrangement. Tony Asher wrote the lyrics, as he did for most of the album. Wilson was nervous about what he considered the unprecedented use of the word god in a pop song title. (Apart from quasi- patriotic kitsch like Johnny Burnette's 1961 hit "God, Country And My Baby", was Wilson unaware of a regional hit nearly as touching as his own, only a decade  earlier- the Capris' "God Only Knows").

As on the rest of the album, none of the Beach Boys play instruments; Brother Carl Wilson's vocal is virtuostic.  In the U.S., "God Only Knows" dented the Top 40 as the B-side of a bouncier Pet Sounds track, "Wouldn't It Be ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

California Music Month: Celebrating Brian Wilson

Thursday, April 8: 12:17 p.m.
Posted by Cory Frye

In commemoration of California Music Month, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and K·Swiss pay tribute to the artists, groups, and movements that helped shape its sounds.

It’s hard to imagine California without Brian Wilson. He may not have been the one to put the state on the map, but he did much for our perception of it as a surfer’s mecca under a perpetual summer sun. Back in the ’60s, the Beach Boys’ intricate harmonies vividly evoked an endless paradise. The music they made continues to thrill generations of fans worldwide — even the ones surrounded by land, with nary a beach in sight.

Appropriately, Wilson was born in the summer, on June 20, 1942, in Inglewood, California, the eldest child of Murry and Audree Wilson. He was joined two years later by a brother, Dennis. The growing family then moved seven miles south, to the city of Hawthorne, where final Wilson brother, Carl, arrived in 1946.

Visitors to the house at 3701 West 119th Street would have instantly seen how important music was to the Wilson family. It went way beyond the piano in the living room. Murry was something of a composer himself, although ...


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