fromDa Capo Press

I Am Brian Wilson

A Memoir

By Brian Wilson, With Ben Greenman

They say there are no second acts in American lives, and third acts are almost unheard of. That's part of what makes Brian Wilson's story so astonishing.

As a cofounding member of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, Wilson created some of the most groundbreaking and timeless popular music ever recorded. With intricate harmonies, symphonic structures, and wide-eyed lyrics that explored life's most transcendent joys and deepest sorrows, songs like "In My Room," "God Only Knows," and "Good Vibrations" forever expanded 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, for the first time, he weighs in on the sources of his creative inspiration and on his struggles, the exhilarating highs and the debilitating lows.

I Am Brian Wilson reveals as never before the man who fought his way back to stability and creative relevance, who became a mesmerizing live artist, who forced himself to reckon with his own complex legacy, and who finally completed Smile, the legendary unfinished Beach Boys record that had become synonymous with both his genius and its destabilization. Today Brian Wilson is older, calmer, and filled with perspective and forgiveness. 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.
Brian Wilson, best known for his work with the Beach Boys, is one of popular music's most revered figures. The main creative force behind some of the most cherished recordings in rock history and one of the most influential composers of the last century, Wilson became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2007. A father of seven, he lives with his wife in Beverly Hills, California.

Ben Greenman is a contributing writer to the New Yorker and a New York Times bestselling author who has written both fiction and nonfiction. He collaborated with Questlove on the hip-hop memoir Mo' Meta Blues and he cowrote George Clinton's memoir Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You? He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

Chicago Tribune, 10/11/16
“Wilson's book documents scattered memories and streamlines them into a series of impressions and anecdotes…Offer[s] valuable if unsettling insights into the personal dynamics inside an American band.”

AXS, 10/13/16
“Wilson goes beach-combing through the past, panning the sands of time for the socio-psychological seashells that gave rise to America's most successful singing group—and launched Wilson's lifetime bout with mental illness…Here Wilson recounts the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful in the straightforward conversational tone of a mature, experienced man reclining in his Lay-Z-Boy, albeit tempered with his boyish enthusiasm (and melancholy).”

Dallas Morning News, 10/14/16
“An unflinching portrait.”

New York Journal of Books, 10/11/16
“Immediate, informal, and confessional…Behind the wholesome image of shy boys and cute girls in a world of eternal sunshine, the Beach Boys inhabited a much darker reality. Brian Wilson nails it in his latest memoir.”

The LA Beat, 10/13/16
“One of the most honest and forthcoming autobiographies ever written by a musician…As you start to read, you really feel less an observer, and more of a participant in [Wilson's] journey…If you only read one book this year, it should be Brian's book.”

Publishers Weekly, 9/12/16
“[A] charming and powerfully written memoir that will engage a readership beyond the multitude of Beach Boys fans…Despite his fame and success, Wilson comes off as a genuinely modest and gentle soul…Wilson's emotional authenticity is beguiling as he takes readers deeply into his mind, voices and all, to describe his unique manifestation of musical genius.”

No Depression, 9/16/16
“Wilson's memoir offers a more sober glance at the spiritual and physical forces that haunt artists and that often drive them to produce the beautiful, sad, and relentlessly affecting music we often embrace…Wilson's memoir eventually grabs us at a deeper level than Love's. If you're looking for fun, fun, fun, pick up Love, but if you're searching for a more introspective, in my room, experience, pick Wilson.”

Canadian Living, 9/22/16
“In this tell-almost-all memoir, Brian Wilson candidly reflects on his struggles with family, substance abuse and mental illness and digs deep into the inspiration and meaning behind his music. It's a must-read for any fan of The Beach Boys—or the '60s pop scene, in general—with big-name music icons of the era (Phil Spector, Carole King, Paul McCartney) featuring in many of the stories.”

"Fascinating and intensely personal...The utter lack of pretense in the prose captures that familiar slightly flat, slightly sad, often rhapsodic voice with true authenticity...I Am Brian Wilson would fail as the Brian Wilson story if it did not deal with the darker corners of his life, and Wilson wanders through these areas fearlessly...Love, music, and an immensely sincere man's true voice are what you should expect and what I Am Brian Wilson delivers."—Psychobabble, 10/21/16

"An unconventional but fascinating read...One gets a terrific feel for Brian Wilson as a person and how he both thinks about and is affected by music. This is one true joy of the book...In all, I Am Brian Wilson is as interesting a book as you'd want it to be. It's not a linear history. It's not a juicy tell-all. But it is a beautiful view into the brilliant and sometimes troubled mind of a true genius of American music."—Under the Radar, 10/25/16

"Candid and tragic, yet in the end exquisitely triumphant and love affirming, I am Brian Wilson is the last (and only) word on Brian's all-too-written-about and over-analyzed past."—Elmore, 10/25/16

"A book almost the opposite of Love's: forgiving, chaotically associative."—New York Review of Books, 10/26/16

"A candid, heartfelt autobiography about a pop-music icon who managed to overcome dark influences that might have defeated someone less resilient."—New York Times Syndicate, 10/11/16

"The book is kind of like his music-gentle, spiritual, lyrical-and provides the expansive commentary that Brian does not usually provide in interviews...It's also funny as hell in places...An altogether lovely read."—The Suburban, 10/29/16

"He has worked with a ghostwriter, but anyone who has seen his spectacular solo shows or seen him interviewed will recognise the voice immediately: vulnerable, faltering, pained, unexpectedly funny...There is a candour and even a childlike openness to how he describes the battling voices in his head and the self-doubt and self-imposed pressure...Wilson's memoir has a weepily beautiful mellowness and a real poignancy that shines through the acrimony and wasted years."—Sydney Morning Herald, 11/5/16

"The enigmatic Wilson documents the poetic lyricism, inspiration and creativity behind his vast discography while at the same time showing a man who is over-time coming to terms with his past...Extremely candid...You aren't going to find any other story like that of Brian Wilson's. Very rarely if ever will you find a person with Brian's notoriety be as truthful and forth coming as he is in this book."—Media Mikes, 11/1/16

"Join the genius behind The Beach Boys as he takes a stroll down memory lane, revealing never-before-heard details about his upbringing with brothers Carl and Dennis, as well as his struggle with mental illness, drug use and more. In I Am Brian Wilson, the legendary surf rocker discusses how these hardships shaped the man he is today, and how he's learnt to forgive those who wronged him."—Over Sixty, 11/3/16

"A frank and revealing portrait of a troubled and popular music pioneer...Worth reading if you are a fan of the Beach Boys, or enjoy reading about how even extreme mental difficulties can be faced, and if not overcome, at least lived with."
Portland Book Review, 11/2/16

"The Beach Boys frontman has a fascinating story...He recounts the ups and downs of his life with candor."

InStyle.com, 11/1/16

"[An] alternatingly sad and inspiring memoir."
Downtown Magazine, 11/17/16

"Beach Boys fans finally get the scoop from the man himself...Provide[s] a crucial blueprint of the rise and fall of one of America's most interesting pop musicians. Wilson carefully answers questions that many die-hard fans have been wondering for years and doesn't shy away from exploring the darker, less glamorous side of being in one of the most famous American bands of all time."—Memphis Flyer, 11/17/16

"The 312-page book...convey[s] Brian Wilson's way of thinking-mostly gentle, conciliatory, a little disjointed and tinged with resignation."—Stockton Record, 11/17/16

"The Beach Boys legend once thought he just wasn't made for these times, but in his new memoir, he reflects on his brilliant career and his successful struggle against his personal demons."

Los Angeles Times

"[Wilson] depicts mental illness candidly."—Austin Chronicle

"In this candid testament, Wilson examines sources of his creative inspiration and reveals his mental and spiritual struggles, his highs and lows."


"Filled with perspective and wisdom."—Music Is My Sanctuary, Top 10 Music Books of 2016

"A patchwork of memories covering childhood through stardom with The Beach Boys, dark years of mental illness and the comeback he has enjoyed in recent years."

Milwaukee Shepherd Express

"[Wilson] tells it his way, and that makes it better than any history I've read of the Beach Boys to date. His no-holds-barred admissions of his mistakes and triumphs are revealing and engaging...The book is also peppered with surprises."

San Francisco Book Review

"[Wilson] weighs in on his extreme highs and lows."

SouthCoast Today


"A strange kind of surfing through the Beach Boy's interior life."—The Guardian

"[Wilson] tell[s] his story in his own way...For Wilson admirers it's a gift from Brian, that, more than anything reveals a sweet, mentally troubled man for whom making music is like breathing for the rest of us."

Lincoln Journal Star

"A page turner...If you're at all a fan, you need this book."
Vintage Guitar

"Offer[s] some fascinating glimpses under the hood."—New York Times Book Review

"[A] must-read for any Beach Boys fan, packed with never-before-seen personal photos and incredible anecdotes."

Over Sixty

"[Wilson] tells his story with incredible intensity, candidness, and humor...It is as if we are having an extended and intimate conversation with Wilson...There has been a veritable avalanche of autobiographies and memoirs from aging rockers in recent years as they begin to contemplate their place in rock history. I Am Brian Wilson takes its hard-earned place in the front of these books. It is not to be missed."

Washington Independent Review of Books

"Touchingly modest...From the start you know you're in for something special...Honest and affecting."

The Spectator (UK)

"A fascinating story of one of the greatest music icons. Wilson tells his story of his life and music in a most gripping way. He gives background to many of iconic songs and shines light on the people he worked with. It is veritably the story of his songs. Music lovers will not be able to put it down once they start reading it."

Washington Book Review


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