The unique workings of Brian Wilson's innovative mind turned a group of good-time California guys into musical pioneers, then turned in on itself and almost self-destructed, the victim of a potent mix of sensitivity and family dysfunction. ( Michael de Bernardi provides both a Freudian and Adlerian analysis of Brian's breakdown in the writings section of the Cabin Essence site ).
No one can ever say for sure whether Brian would have written what no less a composer than Leonard Bernstein once called "music of genius" had he not suffered as a shy and thin-skinned child at the hands of an overbearing and sometimes abusive father. My guess, for what it's worth, is that he would have written songs of similar originality and complexity, but without the emotional depth that makes some of them exceptional.
Inspired by 1950's vocal pop harmonies, Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound", and a sometimes unhealthy rivalry with The Beatles, Brian constructed a string of classic songss for the Beach Boys through the mid-1960's, the intricate harmonic and rhythmic structures of which reflect his idiosyncratic temperament. Many believe his finest work is the 1966 album PET SOUNDS, a rather disjointed collection of songs and sounds intended to be the ultimate in musical statements on one album. It's highly personal and experimental approach broke new ground, inspiring Lennon and McCartney to write the now world-famous Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
Having propelled The Beach Boys to international stardom, Brian decided to spend much of the 1970's and early 1980's as a recluse, disappointed by the band's tacit rejection of his new SMILE project. He eventually re-emerged with a solo album in 1988, healthier in mind and body but clearly damaged by his traumas. In 2004 he released a re-recorded version of SMILE, to international acclaim.
Brian is now quite rightly regarded as a pioneer of pop production, a songwriter of innovative genius, and has fully earned his place amongst the icons of American popular music.