Carl Wilson, a founding member of the Beach Boys and the lead singer on
such hits as "Good Vibrations" and "God Only Knows," died Friday in Los
Angeles from complications of lung cancer. Mr. Wilson, who also played guitar in the group, was 51.
Along with his brothers Brian and Dennis, plus cousin Mike Love and friend
Al Jardine, Carl Dean Wilson helped form the Beach Boys in 1961 when he was
just 14. The band's early hits such as "Surfin' Safari" and "Surfin'
U.S.A." were defined by Mr. Wilson's Chuck Berry-inspired guitar riffs and
Brian's lush vocal arrangements. In 1966, the band released what is
considered to be their finest album, Pet Sounds, which contained Mr.
Wilson's lead vocals on the tender "God Only Knows." Later that year, he
assumed lead again for the semi-psychedelic "Good Vibrations," which many
consider the Beach Boys' best single.
According to those close to the group, Mr. Wilson often served as a
foundation of stability through tumultuous periods, including during
Brian's bouts with neuroses and drug use and the 1983 drowning death of
"All the guys looked to Carl as a steady force," the band's publicist
Alyson Dutch told the Associated Press. "He was also a peaceful
force. Despite everything negative and the media stories that focused on
dissension, when they got onstage or in the studio -- the magic, the love,
the brotherhood that existed between them never failed."
In the early 1980s, Mr. Wilson became unhappy that the Beach Boys had become a nostalgia act and left the group. He released his first solo
album, Carl Wilson, that year, followed by What You Do To Me
in 1983. Soon after leaving, however, Mr. Wilson returned to the group and
their active touring schedule.
Although he was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer last year, Mr. Wilson
refused to take a break from the road and completed a rigorous annual
tour with the Beach Boys last summer.
A private burial service will be held for Mr. Wilson later this week. He
is survived by his wife, Gina; and sons, Jonah, 28, and Justyn, 26. [Mon., Feb. 9, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]