Brian Wilson facts: Beach Boys singer's age, family, children and career explained

23 May 2024, 17:24 | Updated: 28 May 2024, 11:47

Brian Wilson in 1998
Brian Wilson in 1998. Picture: Getty

By Tom Owen

Brian Wilson stands as one of the true greats in pop and rock history, widely recognized as one of the most talented musicians of all time.

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Brian Wilson co-founded the Beach Boys and is often hailed as a genius for his novel approaches to pop composition, extraordinary musical talent, and mastery of recording techniques.

He is widely recognized as one of the most innovative and significant songwriters of the 20th century. His most famous works are noted for their high production values, complex harmonies and orchestrations, layered vocals, and introspective themes.

Wilson is also known for his formerly high-ranged singing and lifelong struggles with mental illness.

He began his professional career in 1961 as a member of the Beach Boys, serving as the band's songwriter, producer, co-lead vocalist, bassist, keyboardist, and de facto leader. After signing with Capitol Records in 1962, he became the first pop artist credited for writing, arranging, producing, and performing his own material.

By the mid-1960s, he had written or co-written more than two dozen US top 40 hits, including the number ones 'Surf City' (1963), 'I Get Around' (1964), 'Help Me, Rhonda' (1965), and 'Good Vibrations' (1966).

  1. How old is Brian Wilson and where was he born?

    Brian Wilson in 1968
    Brian Wilson in 1968. Picture: Getty

    Brian Wilson was born on June 20, 1942, and celebrated his 81st birthday in 2023.

    He was born in Inglewood, California, as the eldest son of Audree Neva and Murry Wilson, a musician and machinist.

    His two younger brothers, Dennis and Carl, were also members of the Beach Boys.

    Brian's father claimed that, as a baby, he could replicate the melody of 'When the Caissons Go Rolling Along' after hearing only a few verses.

    At just two years old, Wilson heard George Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue', a moment that profoundly impacted his life.

    In his early years, he was found to have poor hearing in his right ear. The exact cause of this hearing loss is unknown, with theories ranging from being born partially deaf to a blow to the head from his father or a neighbourhood bully.

  2. When were the Beach Boys formed?

    The Beach Boys in 1964 - L-R: Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Brian Wilson and Carl Wilson
    The Beach Boys in 1964 - L-R: Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Brian Wilson and Carl Wilson. Picture: Getty

    At 16, Brian Wilson shared a bedroom with his brothers Dennis, 13, and Carl, 11.

    Inspired by watching his father play the piano and listening to the harmonies of vocal groups like the Four Freshmen, Brian taught his family members how to sing background harmonies.

    For his birthday, Brian received a reel-to-reel tape recorder and taught himself how to overdub using his vocals along with Carl's and their mother's.

    Family gatherings brought the Wilsons closer to their cousin Mike Love. Later, Brian, Mike, and two friends performed at a high school concert.

    Brian also knew Al Jardine, a high school classmate. He suggested to Jardine that they team up with his cousin Mike and brother Carl. Love then named the new band 'The Pendletones', a pun on 'Pendleton', a style of woolen shirt.

    Dennis, the only surfer in the group, suggested they write songs celebrating surfing and the lifestyle of Southern California. Bruce Johnston later joined the band in 1965.

  3. What health issues has Brian Wilson had and who was Eugene Landy?

    Brian Wilson in 1985
    Brian Wilson in 1985. Picture: Getty

    After his father's death in 1973, Wilson secluded himself in the chauffeur's quarters of his house, spending most of his time sleeping, drinking, using drugs, overeating, and engaging in other self-destructive behaviors.

    He also attempted to drive his car off a cliff and demanded to be pushed into a grave he had dug.

    In 1975, Wilson became a patient under psychotherapist Eugene Landy's program. By 1982, Landy was re-employed as Wilson's therapist and also took on roles as his executive producer, business manager, co-songwriter, and business adviser.

    Landy co-produced Wilson's debut solo album, Brian Wilson, in 1988 and its unreleased follow-up, Sweet Insanity. He also allegedly ghostwrote chapters of Wilson's disowned memoir, Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story.

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    In 1989, Landy agreed to let the state of California revoke his professional license due to accusations of ethical violations and patient misconduct. Wilson continued to see Landy until a restraining order in 1992 prohibited Landy from contacting him ever again.

    Wilson soon started receiving standard medical treatment and, by the late 1990s, began performing and recording again as a solo artist.

    He is diagnosed as schizoaffective with mild manic depression and regularly experiences auditory hallucinations.

    In 2024, his family announced that he had been diagnosed with dementia.

  4. Who was Brian Wilson's wife and does he have children?

    Brian Wilson and second wife Melinda Ledbetter
    Brian Wilson and second wife Melinda Ledbetter. Picture: Getty

    From 1964 to 1979, Wilson was married to Marilyn Rovell.

    The couple had two daughters, Carnie and Wendy, who later became members of the pop group Wilson Phillips.

    In 1995, Wilson married Melinda Kae Ledbetter, a former car saleswoman and model. They had initially met in 1986, but their relationship was cut short by Landy's intervention.

    Wilson and Ledbetter reconnected in 1992 and married three years later.

    Tragically, Melinda passed away in January 2024 at the age of 77.

    Brian Wilson with his daughters Wendy and Carnie in 2015
    Brian Wilson with his daughters Wendy and Carnie in 2015. Picture: Getty