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Brian Wilson is one of the most influential songwriters in rock and roll history and the front man for the Beach Boys.
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The album, which features the songs "God Only Knows," "I Just Wasn't Made for these Times," and "Caroline, No," is ranked by many critics among the greatest records ever recorded. (Rolling Stone magazine, for example, placed Pet Sounds at No. 2 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.) Paul McCartney named it his favorite album and called "God Only Knows" one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Ironically,
considering its later success, Capitol Records and the other members of the Beach Boys initially resisted the musical direction Wilson took on the album. The name Pet Sounds was born when band member Mike Love quipped, "Who's gonna hear this shit? The ears of a dog?"
Immediately after releasing Pet Sounds, Wilson began work on another project that he hoped would reach even greater heights. At first called Dumb Angel and later renamed SMiLE, Wilson imagined the album as a "teenage symphony to God." It would not be released for over 37 years. One of the most famous unfinished albums of all time, SMiLE was shelved when Wilson's personal life took a sharp turn for the worse. Plagued by heavy abuse of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and LSD, Wilson was diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia, suffered numerous nervous breakdowns, and grew obese. He famously began wailing in the aisle of an airplane, played his grand piano in a sandbox, and claimed to hear voices in his head. Attempting to deal with his drug addictions and mental illnesses, Wilson spent much of the next three decades in seclusion.
In the 1980s, Wilson began seeing the famous psychologist Eugene Landy. While Landy managed to cure Wilson of his drug addictions, he also may have exploited Wilson's dependency on him. He convinced Wilson to list him as a collaborator on several songs and as a beneficiary in his will. In 1991, Wilson's family sued Landy, resulting in a restraining order and the loss of Landy's license to practice psychology in California.
Brian Wilson claims that one thing and one thing only contributed to the renaissance of his personal and professional life in the mid-1990s: His wife. In 1995, Wilson married Melinda Ledbetter, and the couple has since adopted three kids. (Wilson had previously married Marilyn Rovell in 1964, and the couple had two children before divorcing in 1979). Since marrying Ledbetter, Wilson has released numerous solo albums including Orange Art Crate (1995) and Imagination (1998). In 2004, 37 years after its initial recordings, Wilson finally released a complete version of SMiLE to wide acclaim. Since reviving his career, Wilson has even overcome his legendary stage fright, performing in concerts throughout the United States and Europe.
Wilson has won numerous honors and awards for his music. Wilson and the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and in 2000 Wilson was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
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