The Beach Boys sounded like California in musical form: beach, waves and a perpetually sunny blue sky.
But Brian Wilson, who co-founded the band with his brothers Carl and Dennis and their cousin Mike Love — and who wrote many of The Beach Boys' signature hits — struggled for years with mental illness. He's heard voices in his head and wrestled with the ghosts of the ways of his father, who encouraged his musical career but beat and abused him.
While there's much to process from his past, Wilson is living in the present, touring with a band for the 50th anniversary of The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. ("I feel pretty good," he says. "People love it, they just love it.") And he's also looking toward his future. He says he plans to write "a rock 'n' roll album" soon — one "that's gonna make people want to dance, clap and yell."
Wilson has written a new memoir with Ben Greenman called I Am Brian Wilson. We reached him in Portland, Ore., as he prepared for a sound check. He seemed courteous, but wary: a man who prefers to express himself in song.
Hear Wilson's conversation with NPR's Scott Simon at the audio link.
A previous version of this story inadvertently referred to Brian Wilson's memoir co-writer as Brian Greenman. The correct name is Ben Greenman.