I’ve been listening to audio books for years now and I recently picked up Brian Wilson’s autobiography. I listened to the Beach Boys back in the day, and he’d been maligned over the years and I wanted to hear his story. I didn’t realize how much I’d like it. So much so that I’ve been streaming his music as I write, going back to a time when things were less crazy, and more in harmony. The albums Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys Today, Little Deuce Coupe and Surfer Girl bringing back memories. I spent a lot of time in the family basement in high school, creating stories even then, and the Wilson family played a role. It was a time of loneliness and fragile self-worth and I was able to build a completely different world for myself. It’s only in looking back that I see I had quite a vivid imagination and a penchant for story.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the Beach Boys today. Dennis and Carl are gone, Brian’s been relegated to a non-entity and I’ve never been a fan of Mike Love. It’s Brian’s songs that were my favorites. God Only Knows, The Warmth of the Sun, California Girls, Wouldn’t it Be Nice, In My Room, are just a few. Brian mentions he has a history with Paul McCartney, and as I listen today, I hear similarities in the Beach Boy and the Beatles sound, indicative of the times and I’m beginning to understand why Brian has been hailed as an innovative genius.

Like so many musicians of the 60’s and 70’s, he experimented with drugs, and drank excessively, but it was the voices in his head that created the biggest threat to his career. They were destructive, debilitating, and constant. His family, trying to help, hired a doctor to work with him. What they did, in fact, was attach him to a controlling man who fed him medications like they were candy and treated him cruelly. It was only through the love of a woman that he was able to get out from under, put his life in perspective, learn how to handle the voices, and live his life as a writer/performer.

I love learning about people, and Brian Wilson has been no exception. He covers mental illness, success, addiction, loss, love, and family dynamics. A true understanding of human frailties, flaws, strengths and successes add to my arsenal for creating believable characters.

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