Born in Hawthorne, California, on December 21, 1946, singer and guitarist Carl Wilson was a singer, guitarist and founding member of the Southern Californian rock 'n' roll group the Beach Boys. Formed in 1961, the band's hits include Surfin' Safari, God Only Knows, Good Vibrations and Kokomo. Wilson died of complications from lung cancer on February 6, 1998, at age 51.
Carl Dean Wilson was born in Hawthorne, Los Angeles County, California, on December 21, 1946. Along with older brothers Brian and Dennis, Carl Wilson began playing guitar as a teenager. In 1961, the three brothers, along with their cousin, Mike Love, and friend, Al Jardine, founded the Beach Boys.
The Beach Boys
The group soon became popular worldwide, with their trademark harmonies and Southern Californian beach and surf-themed songs. They released their first single, "Surfin'," in December 1961, and within a few months, the song had made the Billboard Hot 100 singles list, eventually peaking at No. 75 and remaining on the chart for six weeks.
The Beach Boys signed with Capitol Records in 1962. That same year, they released their first full album, Surfin' Safari, which reached No. 32 on Billboard's albums chart.
The Beach Boys released a crop of hit singles during the early 1960s. Although Brian wrote most of the group's songs, Carl was the band's designated leader in the early days and often sang harmony with his brothers—though he sang lead vocals on "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations," among other hits.
Carl Wilson married Annie Hinsche in 1966. The couple had two sons: Jonah, born in 1969, and Justyn, born in 1971.
Claiming to be a conscientious objector after being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967, during the Vietnam War, Wilson was granted CO status on the condition that he perform his music, at no charge, at prisons and hospitals.
Wilson married Gina Martin, daughter of entertainer Dean Martin, in 1987. The couple was married until his death.
Carl Wilson left the Beach Boys for a short time in 1981 to create his first solo venture, the self-titled Carl Wilson, touring with his own band. He rejoined the Beach Boys the following year, and remained with them for the rest of his career.
Carl's brother, Dennis Wilson, died in a swimming accident in 1983. In a 1985 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Wilson talked about the hardships the band had endured: "Sure, we've had our fair share of ups and downs," he said. "But I don't know if we've had more than any other rock band ... We just have a way of getting ourselves into hot water."
In 1988, the Beach Boys, who were still touring extensively, performing their tried-and-true surfing songs, once again had a long-awaited No. 1 hit with "Kokomo." That same year, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2001, the group was presented with the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.
Even after being diagnosed with lung cancer, Wilson toured with the Beach Boys for their 36th annual tour in 1997. He died from complications of the disease on February 6, 1998, in Los Angeles, at the age of 51.
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