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I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir

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As a cofounding member of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, Wilson created some of the most groundbreaking and timeless popular music ever recorded, forever expanding the possibilities of pop songwriting. Derailed in the 1970s by mental illness, drug use, and the shifting fortunes of the band, Wilson came back again and again over the next few decades, surviving and--finally--t As a cofounding member of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, Wilson created some of the most groundbreaking and timeless popular music ever recorded, forever expanding the possibilities of pop songwriting. Derailed in the 1970s by mental illness, drug use, and the shifting fortunes of the band, Wilson came back again and again over the next few decades, surviving and--finally--thriving. Now he weighs in on the sources of his creative inspiration and on his struggles, the exhilarating highs and the debilitating lows. Whether he's talking about his childhood, his bandmates, or his own inner demons, Wilson's story, told in his own voice and in his own way, unforgettably illuminates the man behind the music, working through the turbulence and discord to achieve, at last, a new harmony.


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As a cofounding member of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, Wilson created some of the most groundbreaking and timeless popular music ever recorded, forever expanding the possibilities of pop songwriting. Derailed in the 1970s by mental illness, drug use, and the shifting fortunes of the band, Wilson came back again and again over the next few decades, surviving and--finally--t As a cofounding member of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, Wilson created some of the most groundbreaking and timeless popular music ever recorded, forever expanding the possibilities of pop songwriting. Derailed in the 1970s by mental illness, drug use, and the shifting fortunes of the band, Wilson came back again and again over the next few decades, surviving and--finally--thriving. Now he weighs in on the sources of his creative inspiration and on his struggles, the exhilarating highs and the debilitating lows. Whether he's talking about his childhood, his bandmates, or his own inner demons, Wilson's story, told in his own voice and in his own way, unforgettably illuminates the man behind the music, working through the turbulence and discord to achieve, at last, a new harmony.

30 review for I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    He rambles, he repeats, he backtracks, there’s almost nothing here that you didn’t know if you were any kind of Brian Wilson fan, but as usual, he gets to you, and his voice in this book becomes almost hypnotic. He’s such a figure of hope, this big looming bear of a man with the formerly very high falsetto, this frightened, terrorized adult child who created the bravest, most soaring and most avant-garde pop masterwork in 1966 then crashed and burned so badly his musical name is surely Icarus. I He rambles, he repeats, he backtracks, there’s almost nothing here that you didn’t know if you were any kind of Brian Wilson fan, but as usual, he gets to you, and his voice in this book becomes almost hypnotic. He’s such a figure of hope, this big looming bear of a man with the formerly very high falsetto, this frightened, terrorized adult child who created the bravest, most soaring and most avant-garde pop masterwork in 1966 then crashed and burned so badly his musical name is surely Icarus. If he can climb through such mental wreckage and still be with us and still find love in his heart, then I’m sure you and I can do it too. This is a mental illness memoir, the prose version of some of his solo songs such as "Water Builds Up" : So many times I've had that hopeless feeling And no kind of booze or medicine helped at all I'm drowning in too many contradictions I'm about to lose all my self control Or "Where has Love Been" I’ve been places I can barely talk about Sunny days that died away in tears Tumbling like a leaf out on the sea of doubt I’ve seen nights that seem to last for years Or the ghoulish "Thank You" from the unreleased Sweet Insanity album Feelin' shut out, no one cared Not my mother, not my brother Crazy beatings by my father A-ooh a-ooh I should declare myself : I’m a fan. All right, probably not a revelation. I wouldn’t say I treasure every note he wrote, because no one could, but about half of it is divine. Pet Sounds and Smile are divine, but so are all the little two minute bits and pieces like When I Grow Up (To Be a Man), Little Pad, Girls on the Beach, Country Air, Wake the World, Til I Die, It’s Trying to Say, Still I Dream of It, The Night was so Young, Melt Away, There’s so Many…. there’s so many. But this is a review of the book, not the music. Occasionally Brian comes out with a zinger We were one of the biggest things going. And then we were one of the biggest things gone. I love that one! And I was a survivor. I tried to survive every day. Lots of that came from my dad. People might say that he was one of the things I had to survive. Quite so…. But also, this memoir is stuffed with amazing nuggets of sublime banality. You read this stuff and your brain registers it 30 seconds later and you have to go back and reread, muttering what the hell did he just sayyyyy????? Some top favourite examples: I was just sitting in my bedroom watching the tv set. I don’t mean I was watching a show or anything. It was just the set. I liked thinking about all the things that used to be on it. I love watching Eyewitness News. The content is not very good but the newscasters are pleasant to watch. They have nice personalities. They also give you the weather. My daughter Carnie cooks. Once on Father’s Day she called and asked me what I wanted. I really wanted cheesecake, but I told her she couldn’t make it because of my diet. I asked her to make macaroni and cheese instead. When we walked in I went right to the counter and ordered a large pizza. The pizza came out of the oven, and I picked up the biggest slice and bit into it. It was hot, but it was great. “This is the best goddamn pizza I ever had,” I said. We went to the Beverly Glen Deli. That’s where I like to go. I have been going there for at least 15 years. They have a big diner menu with lots of choices and everything is good. Brian fans will immediately connect this stuff with songs like "Busy Doin’ Nothin’" from 1968 – all together now: I get a lot of thoughts in the morning I write 'em all down If it wasn't for that I'd forget 'em in a while And you can’t miss the part where he wants to phone his friend: And lately I've been thinking about a good friend I'd like to see more of. I think I'll make a call I wrote her number down but I lost it So I searched through my pocket book I couldn't find it So I sat and concentrated on the number And slowly it came to me so I dialed it And I let it ring a few times There was no answer So I let it ring a little more Still no answer So I hung up the telephone Got some paper and sharpened up a pencil And wrote a letter to my friend All to a lovely bossa nova melody. Non-Brian fans can skip this book and instead watch Love and Mercy, the biopic, which dramatizes two contrasting parts to Brian’s life – 1966 and the recording of Pet Sounds (Brian played by Paul Dano); and then the tangled tale of 1986 when Brian was in the 24-hours-a-day care of Dr Eugene Landy – in this section Brian is played by John Cusack. At first I didn’t want to see this movie, the idea of it was creepy. But then I did and it’s a knockout. Totally recommended. Brian fans will know that this memoir will not be winning any Nobel Prize for Literature any time soon but this is Brian in his seemingly unedited ineffableness, babbling on and on about cheesecake, records, Phil Spector, brothers, psychiatrists, marriages, daughters, fathers, songs, harmonies, loss, defeat, rediscovery, joy and love and the Four Freshmen.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson is a 2016 Da Capo Press publication. If you have seen the movie ‘Love and Mercy’, this book makes a perfect companion piece. Told in Wilson’s own voice the events that unfold in his life are brought to life, as he translates personal observances, memories, impressions, and his feelings and thoughts as he lived in that moment or is reflecting on in hindsight. If you have not seen the movie yet, I hope you will someday. This book will give you a preview of the the I am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson is a 2016 Da Capo Press publication. If you have seen the movie ‘Love and Mercy’, this book makes a perfect companion piece. Told in Wilson’s own voice the events that unfold in his life are brought to life, as he translates personal observances, memories, impressions, and his feelings and thoughts as he lived in that moment or is reflecting on in hindsight. If you have not seen the movie yet, I hope you will someday. This book will give you a preview of the themes featured in ‘Love and Mercy’ which will enhance your viewing pleasure and deepen your understanding of Brian during this period of his life. This is not a conventional memoir, so do not pick this book up expecting an in depth discussion about every album or song, or a tell all book where the intimate details of Brian’s relationships are placed under a microscope. In fact, the truth is, Brian never said anything awful about anyone, even if he most certainly earned the right to do so. He takes the high road, and sticks to his own personal thoughts and memories. I loved his antidotes, this unique perspective on his life, the way he copes now, the credit he gives to his wife, and the long and hard fought battle to make it to this point. There are no excuses, no finger pointing, and the hard spots are considered life lessons, a battle won. But there is also a wistful quality to his voice, where one can sense regrets, feel the pain of mistakes made, but his willingness to admit to his faults, without making excuses for his actions, is actually refreshing. Overall, what I took away from this memoir was the pleasure of the opportunity to peek inside the mind of one of the most prolific musicians among us, to hear in his own words the thoughts and feelings about his experiences and how his battle with mental illness has shaped him, made him stronger, led him to healthier relationships and the ability to return to music, and to a more balanced existence. I enjoyed the chance to hear Brian’s version of events, and appreciate the way the book was written, as opposed to the usual format memoirs follow. It just felt more open, personal, introspective and real. Overall, this memoir is very different from any other you have read, or likely to ever read, written by Brian himself. It's free flowing, following no particular time frame or order, but is still organized into sections that tend to follow a particular theme or thought process. I recommend this book for fans of this artist, for those interested in hearing Brian’s inner thoughts in a personal and intimate format, or for those who enjoy memoirs in general, rock bios, pop culture, or performance arts. 4 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul Gleason

    When I finished reading I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir (Da Capo), I breathed a sigh of relief, wiped my eyes (I didn’t know that for most of my reading, they had been so teary), and uttered one word: “Finally.” That is, thanks to Brian Wilson and his collaborator Ben Greenman, we have a literary document that captures Wilson’s voice, spirit, and soul just as much as his best songs. We also have a universal tale of that strange brew of melancholy and joy that is life. We have a tale of personal redem When I finished reading I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir (Da Capo), I breathed a sigh of relief, wiped my eyes (I didn’t know that for most of my reading, they had been so teary), and uttered one word: “Finally.” That is, thanks to Brian Wilson and his collaborator Ben Greenman, we have a literary document that captures Wilson’s voice, spirit, and soul just as much as his best songs. We also have a universal tale of that strange brew of melancholy and joy that is life. We have a tale of personal redemption. This tale of personal redemption, of course, is nothing new. From David Leaf’s documentary on the making of SMiLE to Peter Ames Carlin’s essential biography of Wilson, it’s become standard to write about the chief Beach Boy in a way in which he begins his slow flutter into obscurity after the demise of SMiLE in 1967 (a time when Wilson’s role in the band changed and, instead of being the band’s leader and sole composer and producer, he became a willing participant in such “group-oriented” records as Wild Honey, Friends, and Sunflower). But, as is somewhat well known, Wilson lost the plot in the early 1970s, staying in bed due to a depression that wouldn’t lift, putting on weight, doing lots of drugs and alcohol, while all the while occasionally contributing to the Beach Boys’ music and appearing with them in concert. In fact, one of the treats of I Am Brian Wilson, is to read Wilson’s dissection of Love You, the 1977 album that still stands as one of rock music’s most original and idiosyncratic achievements. It’s in the sections of I Am Brian Wilson in which Wilson discusses in detail albums such as Love You, as well as other crucial Beach Boys and solo albums such as Today!, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), Pet Sounds, SMiLE (in both its 1967 and 2004 incarnations), and That Lucky Old Sun that the book gains a lot of its life. Wilson speaks enthusiastically and passionately about these recordings in his own voice. This makes the reading experience quite similar to having an intimate conversation with Wilson about what excites him, what makes him tick. And, of course, it’s music that excites him and makes him tick. And music, as the book’s distinctly non-linear style indicates, comes to Wilson in tidal waves of ideas – ideas that are always battling with the disturbing voices that he’s heard in his head since, he claims, he first took LSD in the mid-60s. In my reading at least, when Wilson gets on a good run of ideas, which happened mainly in the mid-60s but also in the Love You period and the Lucky Old Sun period in the mid-2000s, great music cuts through the destructive voices, and the beauty of Wilson’s best work wins the day. But this artistic victory (if I can call it that) is only temporary – and Wilson has spent the majority of his life combating mental illness each and every day. And his mental illness, which he never gives a specific name in the book but candidly and openly discusses, simply sucks the life out of him. Wilson would never say this, but his never-ending struggle to write some of the most beautiful and creative songs in American popular music history is something of a miracle. It’s no wonder, then, that when one listens to a Beach Boys or Brian Wilson solo classic, one feels a kind of ineffable magic. More, one feels an overpowering sense of emotion, a resonance that simply can’t be put into words. Just listen to “Surfer Girl,” “In My Room,” “The Warmth of the Sun,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “California Girls,” “Let Him Run Wild,” the entire Pet Sounds and SMiLE albums and all their terrific cuts, “This Whole World,” “‘Til I Die,” “The Night Was So Young,” “Love and Mercy,” and “Midnight’s Another Day” – just to name a few. This list of songs is long because it has to be. It emphasizes Wilson’s over fifty-year career as a performer, producer, and arranger as a miraculous lifetime of giving. Indeed, as the pages of I Am Brian Wilson attest and I emphasize again, these songs exist because of a deep faith in music’s ability to overcome not just mental illness but also the abuse that Wilson suffered at the hands of his father, Murry, and his psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Landy. Wilson speaks candidly about his experiences with abuse, although he never uses the term “abuse.” But he, unsurprisingly, doesn’t enjoy writing about them. He bluntly states throughout I Am Brian Wilson that it’s very painful for him to dwell on them. But I give him credit for doing his best to explain his experiences with abuse the best he can. Rest assured: Wilson doesn’t keep anything hidden. Love and mercy, the two great themes of the second half of Wilson’s life, ultimately come to the fore as the core of I Am Brian Wilson. As Wilson does in his best songs, he wears his heart on his sleeve and writes extensively and thoroughly about how he made some of his best songs, about his wife Melinda and his family, and, unsurprisingly for any Wilson fan, about some of the most comic events of his life. And isn’t comic storytelling another form of showing love and mercy? And Wilson’s utterly original sense of humor jumps out of the book all the time (check out the stories about Carole King, Wilson’s reception of the Kennedy Center Honors, and the way he met Bono). I Am Brian Wilson is everything it can be and more. It’s a shot of love and mercy from one of music’s most humble, troubled, and gifted human beings. It’s written in a voice that captures the essence of Wilson’s thinking. And, best of all, it makes you grateful that you occupy the planet in the same time as Wilson – that you got to hear the harmonized sigh in “God Only Knows,” that you got to hear the melody to “Surf’s Up,” that you got to make sense of your life by listening to “‘Til I Die,” that you got to read I Am Brian Wilson. This review was published at Stereo Embers Magazine.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    One of my favorite things about this book is one of the things several reviewers don't like, that it's non-linear and rambles. That's the way Mark Twain said an autobiography should be written, and this book shows why. The book is not so much about what happened when, and why. Most fans are familiar enough with Brian's story. The best autobiographies are about the subject, not the happenings, the story not the plot. When Brian says, essentially, "This one thing happened one day and it reminded me One of my favorite things about this book is one of the things several reviewers don't like, that it's non-linear and rambles. That's the way Mark Twain said an autobiography should be written, and this book shows why. The book is not so much about what happened when, and why. Most fans are familiar enough with Brian's story. The best autobiographies are about the subject, not the happenings, the story not the plot. When Brian says, essentially, "This one thing happened one day and it reminded me of this person which made me think of this thing that was like this other thing and that made me think of that time we made this one song," we're getting a glimpse into the man himself. Yeah, it rambles, and maybe there's a lot that is not new but, unlike his first "autobiography," we can hear his voice and learn how the mind works that created so much gorgeous music. I have a better sense of Brian Wilson and his demons and his beautiful, unusual mind. That's what I wanted. And there were still enough anecdotes about his records and the band dynamics to satisfy me. I took a lot longer to read this than I normally would, dipping into it now and then, after skipping around when it first came out. I could have read it in a day or two, but it just felt right, reading it in pieces between other books. I might have liked it less if I had raced through it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James Hold

    You know, I never bought into this whole 'Brian Wilson is a musical genius' gig. It's been admitted that Mike Love co-wrote most of their early work. And while he didn't supply the actual music he often suggested the beat or vocal melody the song should take. If you look at the catalog, BW has very few solo writing credits. All four Beatles wrote songs, words and music. So BW's genius isn't necessarily in the area of writing. What I do hear of him is how he experimented in the studio, combining You know, I never bought into this whole 'Brian Wilson is a musical genius' gig. It's been admitted that Mike Love co-wrote most of their early work. And while he didn't supply the actual music he often suggested the beat or vocal melody the song should take. If you look at the catalog, BW has very few solo writing credits. All four Beatles wrote songs, words and music. So BW's genius isn't necessarily in the area of writing. What I do hear of him is how he experimented in the studio, combining different instruments to sound like others. There's a YouTube video showing him putting together 'Sloop John B'. The question though is 'Why?' Why go to the trouble of mixing saxophone and keyboards and other things to get a guitar sound when you could simply play the guitar in the first place? That to me isn't genius; it's noodling about to see what happens. But hey, he's a millionaire and I'm not, even though I have written a few songs of my own... So before anyone accuses me of anything I'll say I enjoy (not necessarily love) early BB songs. And I don't think there's a single one of the band that I'd want to spend 5 minutes in a room with. Except maybe Al. He pretty much comes across as okay.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Barbara LeMere

    If you have seen Love and Mercy, you already know quite a lot of the story of Brian Wilson's life. It is another thing to hear it in Brian's own voice. In a life that was filled with musical genius, abuse in several forms, physical, mental, drug related voluntary and involuntary, plus the plain old pressures of trying to live your life with a serious mental illness. I find it amazing, and a tribute to Brian's own inner innate goodness, that he came out of it as well as he has. His wife of course If you have seen Love and Mercy, you already know quite a lot of the story of Brian Wilson's life. It is another thing to hear it in Brian's own voice. In a life that was filled with musical genius, abuse in several forms, physical, mental, drug related voluntary and involuntary, plus the plain old pressures of trying to live your life with a serious mental illness. I find it amazing, and a tribute to Brian's own inner innate goodness, that he came out of it as well as he has. His wife of course was a huge part of that recovery process. Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys legacy of amazing music is part of the music of my childhood, so it was definitely worth a read. My only gripe if you could call it that is that the timelines are all over the place, so sometimes it's hard to know where you're at. If that is how Brian was living his life, it all makes sense in the end. Thank you Brian for the music you gave us for the summers of our lives. I highly recommend it but give yourself time to really read it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I'm biased. I love Brian Wilson for all the joy he has brought into my life. Pet Sounds? Bury me with a copy, please. This book is written in Brian's speaking voice, and he's been down a rough road. Anecdotes told several times, thoughts that drop off without resolution - not an easy book to read. Unless you love Brian Wilson - then it reads like a dream...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Edit: My first review was absolutely gushing about Brian Wilson. Then I felt weird so I edited it. But now I feel like it sounds like I didn't really like the book. Quite the opposite, I loved the book. So keep that in mind. I read a review of this book a few months ago and found this line really profound. "...the Beach Boys are the most iconic band of their era whose story centers around mental illness—whose mythos has evolved in relation to how our culture has typically treated sickness without Edit: My first review was absolutely gushing about Brian Wilson. Then I felt weird so I edited it. But now I feel like it sounds like I didn't really like the book. Quite the opposite, I loved the book. So keep that in mind. I read a review of this book a few months ago and found this line really profound. "...the Beach Boys are the most iconic band of their era whose story centers around mental illness—whose mythos has evolved in relation to how our culture has typically treated sickness without a physical manifestation. Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison drank themselves to death, and were held up as rock gods. Brian Wilson, on the other hand, lost his mind, and was a punchline for years." (http://www.spin.com/featured/brian-wi...) There are so many books, articles, interviews about Brian Wilson and his life and what happened with him. It's so refreshing to finally hear it from himself. However, that being said, I found it easier to read this book and really understand what he went through because of the other books and articles I've read, and interviews I've seen, and also from having seen the movie Love & Mercy. He doesn't present his life's story in a linear timeline, so knowing his story beforehand helped me. Though that could just be me, others may find it fine. The style of the writing is truly Brian Wilson. If you don't know what that means, watch some interviews with him. I was a little nervous at the beginning of the book. The first few chapters flit from thought to thought, and it didn't feel cohesive to me. But then, in the chapter entitled Foundations, where he finally really starts talking about recording and making music, he finally seemed to find his groove in writing this book. From that chapter on, it was just a wonderful read. He's not a fabulous writer. If you're looking for an amazing literary read, this isn't it. But it's definitely an honest read. It's moving, and sad, and also really funny. Brian Wilson is apparently an incredibly funny guy, and it comes through in this book. He's also really snarky. Especially when he talks about Mike Love, who can "make any song about 25% better." But he's also incredibly gracious, and that's why he's one of my favorite musicians. He is blown away by the fact that people love his music, and he really appreciates that people listen to it. I suggest reading "Catch a Wave" by Peter Ames Carlin, or seeing the movie "Love & Mercy" either before or right after reading this book. I also really love a documentary about SMiLE that you can find on YouTube called "Beautiful Dreamer- Brian Wilson and and the Story of SMiLE." I don't really know if this review is any good, it went a lot differently in my head when I was trying to plan it out. But oh well! Great first read of 2017!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    I really wanted to love this book because I love Brian Wilson's music. Whilst I got a lot of insight into Brian Wilson's troubled life, ultimately the book was constrained by Brian Wilson's ability to tell the story behind his own story - even with the help of Ben Greenman. At times the book was ponderous but there were also fluid moments when it was possible to get a glimpse of what was going on inside Brian Wilson's head when he was working on his earlier masterworks. I recently watched the mo I really wanted to love this book because I love Brian Wilson's music. Whilst I got a lot of insight into Brian Wilson's troubled life, ultimately the book was constrained by Brian Wilson's ability to tell the story behind his own story - even with the help of Ben Greenman. At times the book was ponderous but there were also fluid moments when it was possible to get a glimpse of what was going on inside Brian Wilson's head when he was working on his earlier masterworks. I recently watched the movie 'Love and Mercy' and the documentary about the (re)-making of SMiLE and those two films - together with this book - have given me a much better understanding and indeed a sense of marvel at what Brian Wilson had to overcome to find an outlet for his musical genius. This book on its own would not have provided that understanding - but having seen Wilson being interviewed it is nothing short of a minor miracle that Ben Greenman managed to get enough material in Wilson's own words to put together this book at all. Reading Wilson's opinions of his own music and being reminded of the discography of his musical achievements has encouraged me to listen again to his music with a new understanding of the struggles he went through to create it. For me, that has more than compensated for any disappointment I experienced when reading 'i am Brian Wilson'.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rich Ware

    I had to take one star off for the repetitive, disorganized format of this book, it very much reads like a transcribed stream of consciousness brain dump from Brian Wilson. Also, Brian doesn't hesitate to name drop (Phil Spector is mentioned ad nausium), but he's not doing to impress IMO, I think he's often in awe of the people he's met, but it does get annoying. However I did enjoy the fact that this is very much written in Brian Wilson's voice, if you can wade through the disjointed narrative, I had to take one star off for the repetitive, disorganized format of this book, it very much reads like a transcribed stream of consciousness brain dump from Brian Wilson. Also, Brian doesn't hesitate to name drop (Phil Spector is mentioned ad nausium), but he's not doing to impress IMO, I think he's often in awe of the people he's met, but it does get annoying. However I did enjoy the fact that this is very much written in Brian Wilson's voice, if you can wade through the disjointed narrative, you'll get a real feel for how Brian thinks and looks at life. Brian is unable or unwilling to really confront the difficult times in his life, I get the feeling that he's revised events to suite his perspective, he really doesn't want to blame anyone for the difficulties he's had. That being said, I did enjoy the book, its very much written from a musician's perspective, and for me the insight into Brian's creative and inspirational processes were the best parts. It was really eye-opening for me how much he derived inspiration from others, even though his songs were often ground breaking and original. Overall, I enjoyed the book, see the movie 'Love and Mercy' for a more cohesive look at parts of Brian's life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tommy

    I have a lot of emotions about Brian Wilson, and it's hard to decouple those from a review of his memoir. Not sure how what to articulate, you know? And certainly GoodReads is no place to wax. My girlfriend and I saw him live and it was a trip. I've never seen so many white people just completely LOSE IT. It's like we were at a pentecostal church or something. I cried a little bit. At one point in the show in between songs, one guy yells out "THANK YOU BRIAN!!!". Like the world had given him this I have a lot of emotions about Brian Wilson, and it's hard to decouple those from a review of his memoir. Not sure how what to articulate, you know? And certainly GoodReads is no place to wax. My girlfriend and I saw him live and it was a trip. I've never seen so many white people just completely LOSE IT. It's like we were at a pentecostal church or something. I cried a little bit. At one point in the show in between songs, one guy yells out "THANK YOU BRIAN!!!". Like the world had given him this second of opportunity to tell this other guy how important he was to him, even if it was the simplest and dumbest summary of all of his emotions. And whether Brian could hear him or not, he had to do it, because when else would he get the chance, you know? Anyway, I think I'll do the same if I get to see him again live.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    So glad that Brian Wilson wrote another book! (Skip the one from years ago when he was being influenced by the evil Dr. Landy.) Brian Wilson may be the most humble rock ‘n roller ever and definitely the most grateful for his unique life. Such a treat to read a memoir by someone who respects others and his own brilliant talent without being a jerk about it. Although he tends to repeat himself often, Wilson shares his story with grace, honesty, and humor. Who doesn’t love the music of The Beach Boy So glad that Brian Wilson wrote another book! (Skip the one from years ago when he was being influenced by the evil Dr. Landy.) Brian Wilson may be the most humble rock ‘n roller ever and definitely the most grateful for his unique life. Such a treat to read a memoir by someone who respects others and his own brilliant talent without being a jerk about it. Although he tends to repeat himself often, Wilson shares his story with grace, honesty, and humor. Who doesn’t love the music of The Beach Boys? They are the soundtrack of summer for sure. Brian Wilson takes you back to how so many of our favorite songs were created. (Check out “The Beach Boys with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra” on CD if you really want to hear them at their best.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Slater

    Needless to say, I loved this book. Not a chronological inventory but a moving account of his musical life, his family and his battle with mental health problems.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    It’s said that there’s a thin line between genius and madness, and Brian Wilson’s memoir is all about walking that line. At age 74 he is clearer than he has ever been and speaks honestly about both his music and his mental illness. He tells his story in an unassuming and down-to-earth way, and the audiobook is an engaging way to experience it. Fred Berman’s performance is so authentic in intonation and phrasing that at first I thought it was Wilson himself reading. Part of Wilson’s life is the d It’s said that there’s a thin line between genius and madness, and Brian Wilson’s memoir is all about walking that line. At age 74 he is clearer than he has ever been and speaks honestly about both his music and his mental illness. He tells his story in an unassuming and down-to-earth way, and the audiobook is an engaging way to experience it. Fred Berman’s performance is so authentic in intonation and phrasing that at first I thought it was Wilson himself reading. Part of Wilson’s life is the day-to-day work of coping with mental illness, part is devotion to family and friends, and part creating musical compositions from a constant barrage of new ideas. The book is not written chronologically, and has been criticized for jumping around. This format seems completely appropriate to me. It is not intended to be a polished volume by an experienced writer. It’s a look into the mind of a creative genius who copes with depression and delusions. His non-linear and sometimes obsessive thinking adds to the complexity and sensitivity of his music, yet has played havoc his personal and professional life. He is, quite simply, not like most of us, and this makes his story and his musical compositions even more intriguing. Many of my favorite reminiscences are about Wilson’s deceased younger brothers, his earliest musical collaborators. Reading about his complex relationship with his abusive yet musically motivating father was uncomfortable but fascinating. His early marriage to another young singer, his obsessive urge to write music rather than touring, how depression undermined his marriage and made him prey to an unethical doctor and his henchmen, how a loving partner saved him from exploitation while allowing him free will, his collaborations with numerous musicians and producers, his quest to make his recordings perfect, overcoming mental health issues to become a better performer: these are large parts of Wilson’s story. Fans of the Beach Boys and of Brian Wilson’s music will enjoy this book. There are many details about the arrangements of various songs, and the reader can hear more depth in many songs when re-listening to them after reading the book. People who struggle with mental health issues, particularly depression and delusional thinking, will relate to both Wilson’s problems and his 3-part “prescription” for wellness. Creative individuals, particularly musicians with too many ideas, will like reading about Wilson’s ideas and obsessions, his personal struggles and how he approaches them, and how he came to eventually accept all facets of himself.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I have always been a fan of The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson writes an honest memoir of his life.He is very upfront about his mental illness and what he has dealt with because of it. His memoir does not go from birth to present, it is more like thoughts of his life growing up, his brothers, his sometimes abusive father. He writes a lot about his music and the songs he has recorded. The death of both of his brothers {Dennis,and Carl} His writing kind of meanders all over his life. Just writing about I have always been a fan of The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson writes an honest memoir of his life.He is very upfront about his mental illness and what he has dealt with because of it. His memoir does not go from birth to present, it is more like thoughts of his life growing up, his brothers, his sometimes abusive father. He writes a lot about his music and the songs he has recorded. The death of both of his brothers {Dennis,and Carl} His writing kind of meanders all over his life. Just writing about his experiences, dealing with his mental illness, an abusive doctor that was suppose to help him but caused a lot of grief in his life. A good memoir. Glad to know more about this talented musician.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Vanity Fair called them the dueling memoirs. Having read Mike Love's first (it came out first) and then Brain Wilson's, It reinforced why I always liked Brian better. Don't get me wrong, Mike's was good. Reading both of them gives you really a fairly complete picture of the history of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Brian's work is that of an artist who really gets into explaining his passion for his life's work. Mike Love's is more of a business case and legal drama. Brian doesn't' ignore thos Vanity Fair called them the dueling memoirs. Having read Mike Love's first (it came out first) and then Brain Wilson's, It reinforced why I always liked Brian better. Don't get me wrong, Mike's was good. Reading both of them gives you really a fairly complete picture of the history of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Brian's work is that of an artist who really gets into explaining his passion for his life's work. Mike Love's is more of a business case and legal drama. Brian doesn't' ignore those issues, but gives them little space, choosing to focus on his music. While both guys have issues, Brian comes off as the genius and artist and Mike as more just a band member.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nestor Rychtyckyj

    It’s hard to discuss this book without bringing in Mike Love’s memoir, which also was published recently. Most reviewers praise Brian Wilson and criticize Mike Love and there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Mike Love talks about Brian Wilson a lot more in his book than Brain Wilson does about Mike Love. The lawsuit by Mike Love to get writing credits for many of the iconic Beach Boys songs is barely mentioned by Brian Wilson and is never discussed in any detail. The business of being in a It’s hard to discuss this book without bringing in Mike Love’s memoir, which also was published recently. Most reviewers praise Brian Wilson and criticize Mike Love and there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Mike Love talks about Brian Wilson a lot more in his book than Brain Wilson does about Mike Love. The lawsuit by Mike Love to get writing credits for many of the iconic Beach Boys songs is barely mentioned by Brian Wilson and is never discussed in any detail. The business of being in a band like the Beach Boys does not seem important to Brain Wilson – most of his book deals with writing songs and music, but yet he would not give credit to Mike Love until a lawsuit forced him too. But this book is a lot more than picking through the arguments and disagreements between Wilson & Love – it’s a story of how Brian Wilson lived and recovered to become the beloved artist that he is today. He talks about his mental illness, his problems with alcohol and drugs as well as mistreatment at the hands of Dr. Landy. He talks about losing his brothers Dennis and Carl as well as his issues with his father. It’s a very honest book and shows his humility as well as his strength and perseverance. The book does have its lighter moments and his stories of the early Beach Boys seem to have a sense of good feeling and nostalgia that bring back those magical times. These books are as different as their authors are. It’s easy to pick sides, but the fact remains that these two men created some of the best music ever made in the USA and their stories stand on their own.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Scheese

    Love, mercy, honesty & insights from a music legend Earlier this year I met Brian Wilson, saw his Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour concert twice, and now I just finished "I am Brian Wilson" by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman. I am grateful to my friend Jerry Weiss for the introduction, unforgettable experiences and the book recommendation. Love, mercy, honesty & insights from a music legend. I imagine if you sat on a beach with Brian and asked him about events and themes in his life, "I am Brian W Love, mercy, honesty & insights from a music legend Earlier this year I met Brian Wilson, saw his Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour concert twice, and now I just finished "I am Brian Wilson" by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman. I am grateful to my friend Jerry Weiss for the introduction, unforgettable experiences and the book recommendation. Love, mercy, honesty & insights from a music legend. I imagine if you sat on a beach with Brian and asked him about events and themes in his life, "I am Brian Wilson" would be the resulting conversation. The book captures an unguarded and unpretentious man reflecting and sharing about people and events of his life, but not in a chronological, biographical manner. Occasionally the narrative meanders, I imagine like the way Brian thinks, but then it comes back to a make deep, indelible and profound insight reminiscent of Brian's music. If Ben Greenman had a heavy influence on the style and structure of the memoir, then kudo's to him for capturing the natural essence of Brian Wilson. I enjoy rock music memoirs & novels and would highly recommend "I am Brian Wilson" as one of my favorites. This is also my second Ben Greenman book in 2016 having read "Emotional Rescue" earlier this Summer. He is rapidly becoming my favorite author in this genre.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emilee Thomas

    I really enjoyed this book. I was already a huge Brian Wilson fan and this book allowed me to get to know him even better by his own words. I enjoyed hearing stories about his music, the production of his music, his marriages, his children, the people he worked with, Dr. Landy, his home life (past and present), his issues with drugs and mental illness, his overall outlook on life and his wisdom that he has gained though his tough, yet rewarding experiences. It’s not a smooth read. He repeats and I really enjoyed this book. I was already a huge Brian Wilson fan and this book allowed me to get to know him even better by his own words. I enjoyed hearing stories about his music, the production of his music, his marriages, his children, the people he worked with, Dr. Landy, his home life (past and present), his issues with drugs and mental illness, his overall outlook on life and his wisdom that he has gained though his tough, yet rewarding experiences. It’s not a smooth read. He repeats and rambles, but for me, I loved that about the book. I really felt like I was having a personal story-time session with Brian in his LA home on a warm summer’s day. Hearing him tell iconic stories that have been told by many and stories that haven’t been told at all by anyone before, was a real treasure. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to get to know the amazing Brian Wilson a little bit better.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Rich

    For those of us following Brian Wilson for 20 years or more, there's not much new to see here. But reading it is like hearing stories from your favorite uncle--it may be the same stories, but it's such a comfortable place. And it's written exactly like Brian sounds when he's being interviewed. Of course, a lot has happened since the Landy book, which, while telling some true stories (which Brian probably told him on the couch), obviously had tons of issues. Like, Brian never actually reading it, For those of us following Brian Wilson for 20 years or more, there's not much new to see here. But reading it is like hearing stories from your favorite uncle--it may be the same stories, but it's such a comfortable place. And it's written exactly like Brian sounds when he's being interviewed. Of course, a lot has happened since the Landy book, which, while telling some true stories (which Brian probably told him on the couch), obviously had tons of issues. Like, Brian never actually reading it, for one. But if you're a fan, you already know the Pet Sounds and Smile stories by heart. It doesn't matter. It's all in the telling. It's non-chronological and filled with wacky Wilson non sequiturs. For example, out of nowhere, he decides to let us know that he knows almost nothing about Frank Black. Then later, he does the same for Miles Davis.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

    It was a pleasure reading Wilson's thoughts. At times, his thoughts can be so scattered and frantic but simultaneously brilliant and profound. Wilson truly has a fascinating mind and a sincere, child-like heart. His music has brightened the lives of countless fans cutting across generations, and his story (setting the record straight for many) has much more to teach those who are already Brian Wilson fans and those who may not know much more about the Beach Boys than a song or two. If you haven' It was a pleasure reading Wilson's thoughts. At times, his thoughts can be so scattered and frantic but simultaneously brilliant and profound. Wilson truly has a fascinating mind and a sincere, child-like heart. His music has brightened the lives of countless fans cutting across generations, and his story (setting the record straight for many) has much more to teach those who are already Brian Wilson fans and those who may not know much more about the Beach Boys than a song or two. If you haven't watched the 2014 biopic LOVE & MERCY, do yourself a favor and check this movie out. That movie tells the story of Brian Wilson's musical genius in crafting PET SOUNDS as well as his painful bouts with mental illness (a combination of paranoia and depression), drugs, and the never-ending pressures to compose and produce pop music gold. This book is a great companion to that movie, as Brian Wilson reflects back on his painful past and how he overcame it (and continues to overcome the negative voices in his head) to enjoy a second phase of life with a wife and kids and new music opportunities to perform and create. While I complained in my review of CATCH A WAVE (another Brian Wilson biography) that I would have liked to have seen the chapters organized more thematically, I now realize that I'm glad I had both to read. Whereas CATCH A WAVE has a clear chronology that walks you through the Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys start to finish, I AM BRIAN WILSON meanders around and touches on most of the highlights and many of the songs in this wonderful autobiography revised and edited by Ben Greeman (who, to his credit, preserved Wilson's voice in the narration and organization of the book). The themes were indeed very cool and helpful in interpreting the meaning of Brian's music and life. Perhaps my favorite chapter was the sixth: Echoes and Voices. Spiritual. While he often touches on spirituality throughout the book (Brian Wilson is undoubtably spiritual and beginning in the mid-1960s wanted to see pop music move in a more spiritual direction), this chapter seems to most frequently come back to spiritual themes. He discusses the spiritual nature of harmonies using 1964's "Dance, Dance, Dance" as an example (170), shares his emotional thoughts about sex and childhood ideals suggested in "Wouldn't it Be Nice" (177), and reveals his vision for a new kind of spirituality in pop songs with his explanation of the round chorus at the end of "God Only Knows" to make it feel eternal (180). He candidly admits to a belief in the relationship between spirituality and drugs (191-192), and yet, he also links the negative voices in his head (despite medical dismissal) as showing up only after his first time taking LSD. I enjoyed his honesty and sincerity in talking about controversial subjects. He is especially clear about the conflicting feelings he had about his dad; while Brian did not love the harsh tone and physical discipline inflicted by his father, he acknowledges that he felt his dad's love through his "tough love" veneer and was motivated to work hard and seek perfection in his music-making due in large part to his father's drive. He understood his dad to be neither entirely selfish nor completely out of touch with the music industry and American consumers. Most importantly, Brian clarifies--at least from his recollection--that it was a neighborhood peer hitting him with a lead pipe across the head that caused him to be permanently deaf in one ear (and not his father's blow that caused it as has been a fairly popular and well-accepted rumor). All that being said, Murry Wilson remains a tragic character in the end. He may have loved his family dearly and wanted them to excel in music and life, but his ambition and motivation seems to have come at the cost of his marriage and more than fraught relationships with his sons at the time of his death. That Brian outlived his parents is not too surprising, but that he outlived his two younger brothers overwhelms him a bit; you can tell that he truly loves and misses his brothers. Dennis drowned while drinking and swimming/diving in 1983 and Carl died of lung cancer in 1998. (Brian wrote an especially powerful song "Lay Down Burden" about Carl's final year of life with cancer and death). Life is tough for virtually everybody, and it is a true gift to have Brian Wilson's musical talent to help endure the it. I am particularly touched by his acknowledging the importance of surrounding himself with a loving family in his recovery and second career. For him, he found family first in Melinda (his second wife who he met at a car dealership seven years after the divorce with his first wife) and in Gloria (his house keeper) who helped him escape the medicated malpractice prison created by a megalomanic psychologist Eugene Landy; he then was able to find family in his adopted children with Melinda, with his daughters he had with his first wife, and his touring band. For a man who started in a family band, he completely restructured both his family and his band the second time around. In the end, he finds the love and mercy we are all searching for.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steve Peifer

    If you always thought Love was evil and Brian was the good guy, it isn't Love's book that will convince you otherwise; it's this one. He has been chew the carpet crazy for most of his life. If what he served to his father in high school on a plate doesn't convince you he was nuts long before the Beach Boys please don't move next door. The thing is: he deliberately denied credit to Love for songs he later admitted in court he had co-written. Besides being a first class mental, he comes across as If you always thought Love was evil and Brian was the good guy, it isn't Love's book that will convince you otherwise; it's this one. He has been chew the carpet crazy for most of his life. If what he served to his father in high school on a plate doesn't convince you he was nuts long before the Beach Boys please don't move next door. The thing is: he deliberately denied credit to Love for songs he later admitted in court he had co-written. Besides being a first class mental, he comes across as an entitled jerk who believes the Brian Wilson hype. It's horribly written and if you believe like I do that he really is a musical genius , you just shake your head and marvel that a guy this messed up was responsible for creating a musical genre and some of the greatest songs of all time. I'd avoid this one.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I have an unhealthy love of Brian Wilson. I adore him. I've read Catch a Wave, a biography about him, watched countless documentaries, seen Love & Mercy a few times. I even got to see Brian live in April, with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin. It was fantastic. Too, this memoir was beautiful. The childlike tone and somewhat confused manner allows the reader to truly crawl inside Brian's mind and see the genius tick. I loved every little bit of this book. I love how now I can try to hear each note, I have an unhealthy love of Brian Wilson. I adore him. I've read Catch a Wave, a biography about him, watched countless documentaries, seen Love & Mercy a few times. I even got to see Brian live in April, with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin. It was fantastic. Too, this memoir was beautiful. The childlike tone and somewhat confused manner allows the reader to truly crawl inside Brian's mind and see the genius tick. I loved every little bit of this book. I love how now I can try to hear each note, each unique sound, the way he did when making his records. Now, I'll never have his ear (the left one!), but I do have a deep love of music, and reading this thoughts was nearly spiritual. So much love to Mr. Wilson. All the love.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Glasser

    I grew up listening to the Beach Boys. Their songs remind me of the summertime and going to the zoo, "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" reminds me of my husband, and "Don't Worry Baby" reminds me of Never Been Kissed. Until recently I never really thought much about the stories behind the music. When I saw Love and Mercy I was shocked to learn not only of Brian Wilson's mental illness but also of his treatment because of it. It made me want to find out more. This book was published last year and it directly I grew up listening to the Beach Boys. Their songs remind me of the summertime and going to the zoo, "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" reminds me of my husband, and "Don't Worry Baby" reminds me of Never Been Kissed. Until recently I never really thought much about the stories behind the music. When I saw Love and Mercy I was shocked to learn not only of Brian Wilson's mental illness but also of his treatment because of it. It made me want to find out more. This book was published last year and it directly confronts Wilson's mental condition. We get a glimpse of what goes on inside the genius behind the music.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    The problem with books written by or on behalf of inscrutable celebrities with mental/emotional/behavioral problems is that it's hard to tell a compelling, coherent linear narrative because that's not how their lives work. This book jumps around from present to past to near-past, recounts some good tales, and gives glimpses into the quiet, heartbreaking disarray in Brian's mind with which he has struggled to live his past 50 years.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This book gave me the same feeling as a Michael Jackson bio: On one hand, I feel sorry for them for falling victim to abusers like their fathers and people who plied them with drugs, but on the other, I sort of wish they'd own up to their own part in those addictions. It's an interesting read, though, and fascinating to hear how Love & Mercy was very on the money in its depiction of Brian's illness. This book gave me the same feeling as a Michael Jackson bio: On one hand, I feel sorry for them for falling victim to abusers like their fathers and people who plied them with drugs, but on the other, I sort of wish they'd own up to their own part in those addictions. It's an interesting read, though, and fascinating to hear how Love & Mercy was very on the money in its depiction of Brian's illness.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brad B

    A fascinating read for anyone who is a fan of the Beach Boys or Brian Wilson, or just a lover of music. Wilson describes his family life and his song-writing and recording process in such a conversational tone that I could almost hear him speaking the words. He describes his struggle with mental illness very matter-of-factly, acknowledging that the same mind that put voices in his head also gave him beautiful song lyrics. A quick read and a moving tale, highly recommended.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    Ben Greenman writes as if Brian is talking to the reader directly. Not in the 4-part vocal harmonies of Pet Sounds, but close. This is excellent but a Beach Boys reading collection, like the 33.33% completed Mark Lewisohn Beatles' trilogy, would be the ultimate Fun Fun Fun.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Sveine

    UH-MA-ZING.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alan Hamilton

    I really wanted to like this book, but found the style monotonous and repetitive. There are sections that are first class and capture the tormented genius that is Brian Wilson (5 stars), but there are also sections that are pretty dull tales of , for example, some of the recording sessions (1 star). In the good bits, Brian bares his soul and gives us a no holds barred account of the bullying, alcoholism, mental strife and drug issues that have plagued his life. It looks like the book is transcrib I really wanted to like this book, but found the style monotonous and repetitive. There are sections that are first class and capture the tormented genius that is Brian Wilson (5 stars), but there are also sections that are pretty dull tales of , for example, some of the recording sessions (1 star). In the good bits, Brian bares his soul and gives us a no holds barred account of the bullying, alcoholism, mental strife and drug issues that have plagued his life. It looks like the book is transcribed from a large number of recordings. These demonstrate the day to day mood swings, but I found the style a bit tedious. Maybe, that’s how the author wanted it to be read? I’d give the film a try.

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