Brian Douglas Wilson was born in Inglewood, California. According to his father, Murry Wilson, Brian developed an interest in music when only an infant; that he could repeat the melody from "When the Caissons Go Rolling Along" when he was one-year-old. A few years later Brian was discovered to have extremely diminished hearing in his right ear.
Murry, a minor musician and songwriter, encouraged his children including Brain and his younger brothers Carl and Dennis, to become musicians. ((Both Carl and Dennis Wilson are deceased.)
Brian was given six weeks of lessons on a "toy accordion," and at seven and eight sang solos in church with a choir behind him.
At Hawthorne High School, Brian was a quarterback on the football team, played baseball and was a cross-country runner in his senior year. Most of his energy, though, was directed toward music. Brian taught his two brothers harmony parts.
He also played piano obsessively after school, deconstructing the harmonies of The Four Freshmen by listening to short segments of their songs on a phonograph, then working to recreate the blended sounds note by note on the keyboard. Brian received a Wollensak tape recorder on his sixteenth birthday, allowing him to experiment with recording songs and early group vocals.
Enlisting his cousin Mike Love, and Wilson's reluctant youngest brother Carl Wilson, to perform at a fall arts program at his high school. To entice Carl into the group, Wilson named the newly-formed membership "Carl and the Passions." The performance featured tunes by Dion and the Belmonts and The Four Freshmen ("It's a Blue World.")
The event made an impression on another musician and classmate of Brian's who was in the audience that night, Al Jardine, later to join the three Wilson brothers and Mike Love in The Beach Boys.
Brian enrolled at El Camino Community College in Los Angeles, majoring in psychology, in September 1960. However, he continued his music studies at the college as well. At some point in the year 1961 Brian wrote his first all-original melody, loosely based on a Dion and the Belmonts version of "When You Wish Upon a Star." Brian's tune became "Surfer Girl."
Brian has commented that he wrote the melody in his car, then later at home finished the bridge and harmonies. Although an early demo of the song was recorded in Feb. 1962 at World-Pacific Studios, it was not re-recorded and released until 1963, when it became a top ten hit.
Initially named the Pendletones Brian and his brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson along with Mike Love and Al Jardine first gelled as a music group in the summer of 1961. After being prodded by Dennis to write a song about the local water sports craze, Brian and Mike Love together wrote the band's first single "Surfin'."
Over Labor Day weekend 1961, Brian spent money left by his parents while they were away and rented an amp, a microphone, and a stand-up bass. The money was not enough, and Al Jardine appealed to his mother, Virginia for assistance. She pitched in $300. Al promptly took Brian to the music store where he was able to rent a stand-up bass.
After two days of rehearsing in the Wilson's music room, Brian's father was convinced that the boys had something special, and made himself the group's manager and the band embarked on serious rehearsals for a proper studio session.
Recorded by Hite and Dorinda Morgan and released on the small Candix label, "Surfin'" became a top local hit in Los Angeles and reached number seventy-five on the national Billboard sales charts.
Without the band's knowledge or permission, Candix Records had changed their name to The Beach Boys.
Wilson's life was derailed by years of drug abuse and mental illness, contributing to tensions with the band. After years of treatment and recuperation, he began a solo career in 1988.
That same year, Wilson and his band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which refers to Wilson on its website as "One of the few undisputed geniuses in popular music." In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine published a list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time," and ranked Wilson number 52.
Wilson won a Grammy Award in 2005 for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow (Fire)" as Best Rock Instrumental. He is also an occasional actor and voice actor, having appeared in television shows, films, and other music artist music videos.
In 2000, Wilson was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Paul McCartney introduced Brian, referring to him as "one of the great American geniuses."
In March 2001, TNT and Radio City Music Hall hosted "An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson." Pet Sounds has been ranked as one of the most influential records in popular music, and has been ranked #1 on several music magazines' lists of the greatest albums of all time. It is ranked #2 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
On May 20, 2005, Wilson and the five other original-era Beach Boys were honored with the unveiling of the Beach Boys Historic Landmark on the former site of the Wilson family home in Hawthorne, California.
In November 2006, Wilson was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. Wilson performed "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations" at the ceremony.
In 2010, he released Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin.
On December 2, 2007, the Kennedy Center Honors committee recognized Wilson for a lifetime of contributions to American culture through the performing arts in music.
May 20, 2011, Wilson received the UCLA George and Ira Gershwin Award at UCLA Spring Sing.