Monday, October 17, 2016

Inside the Tortured Mind of True Genius

I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir – Brian Wilson – (DaCapo Press)

Whether it is the world of sports or the creative world the term genius has been tossed around so liberally, that it has had its value so reduced that it has become almost meaningless and at times it can become backhanded slap. One place where the term is neither misplaced nor misused is when it is utilized to describe legendary Beach Boys tunesmith Brian Wilson.

Wilson is the musical equivalent of a Beautiful Mind; a savant who walks the knife edge between genius and insanity. As I read his autobiography, I Am Brain Wilson, I wondered if this man who has become a poster child for mental illness, may have been misdiagnosed and actually has a high functioning form of autism, like Aspergers’s Syndrome, that gives him a sparring, tenuous grip on a reality but, allows him to create sounds and songs that have become timeless classics.

The book alternates between being a sad portrait of a troubled man, who is clearly the victim of emotional trauma and abuse, and hopeful tale of a survivor who escaped to lead a life doing what he loves. While over the course of time I have literally strung together millions of words in a coherent fashion, I will admit that I don’t know how the creative process works for musicians like Wilson, who seem to have an amazing and innate facility to craft notes and words into song. Wilson details the many interactions he has had over the course of his career that have led to varying degrees of success.

I Am Brain Wilson, is a must read for anyone who is a fan of the Beach Boys, Wilson’s solo work or anyone who appreciates the impact that he has had on popular music as a whole. While the later, touring groupings dubbed the Beach Boys have become a musical punch line or footnote, this offers great insight into what remains one of the few truly unique and impactful music groups of our time and Wilson was the undeclared leader of the band.

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