Brian Wilson

Arguably the most significant American pop composer of the 20th century, Brian Wilson was a founding member of the Beach Boys and a major influence on the sound and scope of popular music for over five decades. With brothers Dennis and Carl, cousin Mike Love and schoolmate Al Jardine, Wilson created a signature sound that linked folk and jazz vocal harmonies to rock's heavy beat, which instantly minted them as pop stars. His songwriting talents matured in the mid-1960s, moving from danceable pop ditties like "Surfin' Safari and "I Get Around" to mini-symphonies marked by lyrical beauty and intricate arrangements. The culmination of this period was the complex, emotionally stirring Pet Sounds, a high-water mark in the development of pop music as an art form. But the achievement came at a price; drugs and internal pressures within the group destroyed his proposed masterwork, SMiLE (1968), sending Wilson into a psychological tailspin for the next three decades. He resurfaced in 1995 with his demons in check, and began an astonishing string of musical accomplishments, including the completion of SMiLE in 2004. Eight years later, he stunned observers by reuniting with the surviving Beach Boys for That's Why God Made the Radio (2012), which returned them to the Top 5 for the first time in nearly four decades. Throughout his life, Brian Wilson clung to the idea that music was a direct link to love and spirituality, a notion that preserved his status as one of popular music's most revered figures.