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The Beach Boys are an iconic American rock band, frequently cited as one of the most influential and commercially successful groups in the history of popular music due to their intricate vocal harmonies, studio experiments, and novel approaches to pop songwriting. Rooted in doo-wop and rock and roll, their early string of vocal surf hits defined the '60s California Sound. For a period afterward, they notably delved into progressive pop styles. often combining elements from classical and jazz in innovative ways.
Formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961, the original group comprised singer-musician-composer and bandleader Brian Wilson, his brothers Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine. Wilson neighbor David Marks appeared on their first four albums and was a member from 1962 to 1963 as a temporary replacement for Jardine, who had left the group to pursue a career in dentistry.
On their first few studio albums, the group primarily played surf music, but this changed after 1964 as their songs became more sophisticated and autobiographical. The 1965 album Today! particularly represented this shift in sound. Bruce Johnston joined the group that same year. Session drummer Hal Blaine is quoted: "We all studied in conservatories; we were trained musicians. We thought it was a fluke at first, but then we realized Brian was writing these incredible songs. This was not just a young kid writing about high school and surfing."
Following their most esteemed work, Pet Sounds (1966), the band became symbols of psychedelic counterculture. The highly anticipated follow-up, Smile, was left unfinished, and Brian soon relinquished his creative hold on the group. A trilogy of lo-fi releases followed: Smiley Smile (1967), Wild Honey (1967), and Friends (1968). Brian would not be credited as a primary composer for any Beach Boys album until 1977's Love You, an album on the fringe of synth-pop, new wave, and punk.
In Brian's absence, the Beach Boys still managed to release music that was regarded favorably by fans and critics despite poor sales: Sunflower (1970) and Surf's Up (1971). South African musicians Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar played and sang with the band on the next two albums: Carl & the Passions - So Tough (1972), and Holland (1973).
Many changes in both musical style and personnel have occurred in their sometimes-stormy career: Brian Wilson's mental illness and drug addiction; the deaths of Dennis Wilson in 1983 and Carl Wilson in 1998; and continuing legal battles among surviving members of the group. With the release of 1974's Endless Summer they became a more popular touring act, playing their greatest hits. They have recorded 36 Billboard Top 40 hits (including four number-one singles), have had over 100 million sales, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
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