Brian Douglas Wilson (born June 20, 1942) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer who co-founded the Beach Boys. Often called a genius for his novel approaches to pop composition, extraordinary musical aptitude, and mastery of recording techniques, he is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and significant songwriters of the 20th century. His best-known work is distinguished for its high production values, complex harmonies and orchestrations, layered vocals, and introspective or ingenuous themes. Wilson is also known for his formerly high-ranged singing and for his lifelong struggles with mental illness.
Raised in Hawthorne, California, Wilson's formative influences included George Gershwin, the Four Freshmen, Phil Spector, and Burt Bacharach. In 1961, he began his professional career 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. He also produced other acts, most notably the Honeys and American Spring. By the mid-1960s he had written or co-written more than two dozen U.S. Top 40 hits, including the number-ones "Surf City" (1963), "I Get Around" (1964), "Help Me, Rhonda" (1965), and "Good Vibrations" (1966). He is considered among the first music producer auteurs and the first rock producers to apply the studio as an instrument.
In 1964, Wilson had a nervous breakdown and resigned from regular concert touring, which led to more refined work, such as the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and his first credited solo release, "Caroline, No" (both 1966), as well as the unfinished album Smile. As he declined professionally and psychologically in the late 1960s, his contributions to the band diminished, and legends grew around his lifestyle of seclusion, overeating, and drug abuse. His first comeback, divisive among fans, yielded the would-be solo effort The Beach Boys Love You (1977). In the 1980s he formed a controversial creative and business partnership with his psychologist, Eugene Landy, and relaunched his solo career with the album Brian Wilson (1988). Wilson disassociated from Landy in 1991. Since 1999, he has toured regularly as a solo artist.
Heralding popular music's recognition as an art form, Wilson's accomplishments as a producer helped initiate an era of unprecedented creative autonomy for label-signed acts. The youth zeitgeist of the 1960s is commonly associated with his early songs, and he is regarded as an important figure to many music genres and movements, including the California sound, art pop, psychedelia, chamber pop, progressive music, punk, outsider, and sunshine pop. Since the 1980s, his influence has extended to styles such as post-punk, indie rock, emo, dream pop, Shibuya-kei, and chillwave. Wilson's accolades include numerous industry awards, inductions into multiple music halls of fame, and entries on several "greatest of all time" critics' rankings. His life was dramatized in the 2014 biopic Love & Mercy.