Tribute to Carl Wilson

In paying tribute to Carl Wilson as a fan of the Beach Boysí music, I have to look at his musical contribution to the group. From all accounts he seems to be have been a gentle and kind man, but it is not my role to comment on him as a person. However, as someone who has been touched by the music of the Beach Boys, it is Carlís underrated contribution to the group that I would like to comment on.

Carl Wilson was a singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is probably best remembered as a singer, probably because his voice transformed "God Only Knows" to an even higher level. But he was probably the pre-dominant vocalist for the Beach Boys on record from Wild Honey to Holland, an era that retrospect must now show has been ignored both critically and commercially. He showed an extra-ordinary variety of vocal skills from the hard-rock of "Itís About Time" to tender ballads such as "Only With You." It does seem that Carlís drive in that period ensured that the Beach Boys continued to make relevant and good music during that late 60s/early 70s era.

As a guitarist, probably the best endorsement for Carlís talents was David Leafís comment on the Concert/Live in London CD release that Carl was the heart of the live group. There can be little doubt that Carl has been a major factor in the Beach Boysí concerts professionalism and ability to remain a top stage act.

As a songwriter, Carl remains supremely underrated. He composed few songs, but in what he did, he showed touches of the genius of both his older brothers. It must have been hard to compete when oneís oldest brother was arguably the most gifted musician of the century and the middle brother was writing soulful tunes of passion and inspiration. Individual songs are always a personal thing, but for me there are five Carl Wilson songs of true inspiration. "Long Promised Road", "Trader", "Full Sail", "Heaven" and "Where I Belong." The theme throughout these songs seems to be battling the rocky road of life and the need for the security of true love, complementing well Brianís songs of growing up, change, insecurity and searching and Dennisís battles between the home and the wandering soul.

The Beach Boys once seemed to symbolise the American dream. Their story now seems closer to the great American tragedy, and as a band now there seems to be no happy ending. All there is now is the music, and our best hope is that the world will now appreciate the talent and contribution to popular music of all the Wilson brothers.

Carl, we will miss you for sure. Thank you for providing a vast heritage of musical treasures, to which your contribution we will never forget. Rest in peace, you deserve it.

Back to main essays page.