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Stars To Honor Neil Young

MusiCares salutes rock legend

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(For a complete list of 52nd GRAMMY Award winners, please click here.)

An impressive all-star cast will honor 2010 MusiCares Person of the Year honoree Neil Young on Jan. 29 in Los Angeles, two days before the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards.

Artists on board to fete the legendary rocker are Jack Black, Jackson Browne, T Bone Burnett, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Sheryl Crow, Everest, Patty Griffin, Josh Groban, Ben Harper, Emmylou Harris, Elton John, Norah Jones, Lady Antebellum, k.d. lang, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Ozomatli, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Leon Russell, James Taylor, Wilco, and Lucinda Williams.

This year’s event marks the 20th anniversary of the MusiCares Person of the Year event, which honors a musician for his or her musical and humanitarian accomplishments.

The event, a private charity fundraiser, is attended by industry VIPs and others who help support the work of the Recording Academy-affiliated MusiCares Foundation, which offers programs and services to members of the music community including emergency financial assistance. The MusiCares MAP Fund allows access to addiction recovery treatment and sober living resources for members of the music community regardless of their financial circumstances, and MusiCares Safe Harbor Rooms, at event such as the GRAMMY Awards, offer a support network to those in recovery while they are participating in the production of televised music shows and other major music events.

Portions of the Person of the Year event this year will be streamed live for the first time ever at GRAMMY.com.

Past MusiCares Person of the Year honorees include Tony Bennett, Bono, Natalie Cole, Phil Collins, David Crosby, Neil Diamond, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Don Henley, Billy Joel, Elton John, Quincy Jones, Luciano Pavarotti, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, Sting, James Taylor, Brian Wilson, and Stevie Wonder.
 

Nxdia, Shamir, girli, King Princess, Zolita, Laura Les, Towa Bird in collage
(From left) Nxdia, Shamir, girli, King Princess, Zolita, Laura Les, Towa Bird

Photos: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Depop; Matthew James-Wilson; Claryn Chong; Burak Cingi/Redferns; Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Boston Calling; Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage; Courtesy Interscope Records

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's 2024 Pride Month Playlist Of Rising LGBTQIA+ Artists

From Laura Les and Nxdia to Alice Longyu Gao and Bambi Thug, a new class of LGBTQIA+ artists is commanding you to live out loud.

GRAMMYs/Jun 3, 2024 - 01:37 pm

LGBTQ+ artists have long shaped the music industry and culture at large, offering audiences a glimpse into their unique lives, shared experiences and so much more.

Queer artists are foundational to American music; Released in 1935, Lucille Bogan’s “B.D. Woman’s Blues” was one of the first lesbian blues songs — and wouldn’t be the last. Fellow blues singers Gladys Bently, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith also sang about same-sex love (thinly veiled or otherwise). On opposite ends of the 1970s musical spectrum, disco (itself a queer artform) and punk musicians explored gender identity in song and performance —  defying conventional gender norms at the time. Gender fluidity became part of the culture during the '80s, with genre-bending artists such as David Bowie and Boy George leading the charge. 

In the decades since,  a spectrum of LGBTQIA+ artists is opening up —  and creating work about — their sexual and gender identities. Queer artists are also being recognized for their contributions to global culture. In 1999, six-time GRAMMY winner Elton John became the first gay man to receive the GRAMMY Legend Award. 

Read more: The Evolution Of The Queer Anthem: From Judy Garland To Lady Gaga & Lil Nas X

The GRAMMY Awards have become more inclusive of the queer community. In 2012, the Music's Biggest Night became the first major awards show to remove gendered categories. In 2014, Queen Latifah officiated a mass wedding of straight and gay couples during Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love” performance, which included gay icon Madonna performing her “Open Your Heart.” In 2022, Brazilian singer/songwriter Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY. Just three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win a GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performances for their collaboration, “Unholy.” The 2024 GRAMMYs marked a record high for queer women winning major awards: Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Victoria Monét, and boygenuis all took home golden gramophones in the Big Six Categories. 

As queer artists continue to command attention across genres and get their flowers on the global stage, a new class of LGBTQIA+ artists is emerging into the scene. These artists are both following in the steps of established acts by sharing their experiences through their music, and creating work that is unique to their lives and time. 

In celebration of Pride Month 2024, GRAMMY.com has put together a playlist of rising artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, whose sound commands you to live out loud. 

PRIDE & Black Music Month: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ & Black Voices

Elton John with Lion King Broadway cast in 1999
Elton John (center) with actors Paulette Ivory as 'Nala' (left) and Roger Wright as 'Simba' (right) at the opening night 'The Lion King' musical in London in 1999.

Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images

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9 Reasons Why 'The Lion King' Is The Defining Disney Soundtrack

Thirty years after 'The Lion King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack' was released, revisit all the ways it became Disney's ultimate musical moment, from multiple GRAMMYs to a Broadway smash.

GRAMMYs/May 31, 2024 - 05:14 pm

Following the untimely death of their regular composer Howard Ashman, who, alongside Alan Menken, had written the soundtracks for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, Walt Disney Feature Animation were forced to look elsewhere for 1994's The Lion King. As their first film ever based on an original story, and their first to consist entirely of animal characters, the Mouse House was already taking something of a gamble. And they further refused to play it safe by appointing a pop star with no prior experience of the Hollywood machine.

Luckily, the leftfield choice of British national treasure Elton John (then without his Sir title), proved to be a masterstroke. Alongside Tim Rice, the lyricist best-known for his musical theater work with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Rocket Man delivered five instant classics. Not only did the likes of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," and "Circle of Life" perfectly help push forward the narrative, but they also helped push the film to awards glory at the Oscars and GRAMMYs, a colossal box office figure of nearly one billion dollars, and permanent residency in the pop culture landscape.

Of course, John and Rice can't take all the credit for Lion King's roaring success. Acclaimed composer Hans Zimmer also came on board to give an orchestral touch to the Shakespeare-inspired tale of an heir apparent, who after escaping his wicked uncle's clutches, returns years later to reclaim his rightful position. And professional singers Carmen Twillie, Sally Dworsky, and Kristle Edwards joined household names such as Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, and Rowan Atkinson in the recording booth, further driving the massive impact of the movie and its music.

Thirty years after it first enamored the Blockbuster generation, we take a look at how The Lion King still sits at the top of the Disney soundtrack throne.

It's Still The Biggest Selling Disney Soundtrack 

Forget The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, or the more recent musical phenomenon that is Frozen. When it comes to pure sales, the runaway Disney soundtrack leader is The Lion King. The Rice/John/Zimmer collaboration shifted nearly five million copies domestically in 1994 alone. And its impressive worldwide total is now triple that amount.

It's a figure that also places The Lion King in the top 10 best-selling soundtracks of all time. Indeed, it's Disney's only representative in the list, which includes Prince's Purple Rain, James Horner's Titanic, and Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever, as well as the "I Will Always Love You"-featuring The Bodyguard at No. 1. (It still has a way to go to beat John's commercial peak, though. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has reportedly sold an astonishing 20 million since its release in 1973.)

It Made GRAMMY History 

It wasn't just at the box office where Disney firmly established its second golden age. Before the release of 1989's The Little Mermaid, the Mouse House hadn't attracted GRAMMYs attention once. By the turn of the century, however, they'd racked up a remarkable 30 nominations and 17 wins — and The Lion King played a major part in this awards dominance.

In fact, it made history by becoming the first Disney winner of both Best Male Pop Vocal Performance ("Can You Feel the Love Tonight") and Best Musical Album For Children, while "Circle of Life" picked up Best Instrumental Arrangement With Accompanying Vocals, too. The Lion King also followed in the footsteps of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin by picking up the Academy Awards for both Best Original Song and Best Original Score.

It Started A Trend Of Pop Artist Composers 

While Celine Dion, Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle had all previously lent their vocals to Disney's second golden age, The Lion King was the studio's first soundtrack to give a pop star composing duties. Alongside Tim Rice, the celebrated lyricist who'd worked on Aladdin, Elton John wrote all five of the album's vocal numbers. And it was a setup that appeared to give several of his peers ideas.

Randy Newman had already picked up Academy Award nods for his composing talents on 1981's Ragtime. But it wasn't until 1995's Toy Story that the singer/songwriter began the fruitful Disney animation partnership that would also take in the Monsters Inc. and Cars franchises. In 1999, Phil Collins co-wrote and performed the entirety of Tarzan's pop soundtrack. And four years later, Carly Simon decided to get in on the Mouse House action by pulling double duty on seven songs for Piglet's Big Movie.

It Introduced Hans Zimmer To Animation 

The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, Madagascar, and The Simpsons Movie are just a few of the hit animations to have benefitted from Hans Zimmer's Midas touch. But it wasn't until 12 years into his career that the German composer proved that his talents could be used just as effectively in the world of animation as live-action. And The Lion King was the catalyst.

Zimmer provided four instrumental pieces for the Disney phenomenon including "This Land," "To Die For," and "King of Pride Rock," also bagging two GRAMMYS, an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his efforts. And as he told Classic FM while promoting his work on the 2019 remake, he has a certain family member to thank. "My daughter was 6 years old. I'd never been able to take her to any premieres, and Dad likes to show off."

It Spawned Several Crossover Hits 

Although Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin had both spawned big Hot 100 hits (the chart-topping "Beauty and the Beast" and Dion and Bryson's "A Whole New World," respectively), The Lion King was the first Disney soundtrack to produce two. "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" reached No. 4 in the U.S. (and No.1 in Canada and France), while "Circle of Life" peaked at No. 18. Even "Hakuna Matata" saw some Billboard action, gracing both the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks and Bubbling Under charts.

You're unlikely to ever see Elton John performing the latter – four of the film's cast members including Nathan Lane provided the vocals. But the two official singles have remained staples of both his live shows and countless compilations ever since. And they've crossed over to the Spotify age, too, with "Circle of Life" racking up103 million streams and "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" a whopping 322 million.

It Birthed Broadway's Biggest Hit 

Hitting the New Amsterdam Theatre in October 1997, The Lion King wasn't the first Disney animation to get a Broadway stage adaptation (Beauty and the Beast had opened at the Palace Theatre three years earlier) — but it remains the biggest. In fact, thanks to a run of 8,500 shows, its $1 billion-plus gross is now the highest in the theater district's history.

The Lion King has also made it around the world, picking up numerous Tony and Olivier Awards along the way. And as you'd expect, the film soundtrack's pop numbers have been just as pivotal to the theater production's success as its immersive set design, powerhouse performances, and jaw-dropping puppetry.

Those lucky enough to see the spectacle before 2010 would also have enjoyed something of a lost classic. Sung by Mufasa's hornbill advisor Zazu, the John/Rice-penned "The Morning Report" was omitted from the 1994 film but enjoyed a 13-year run in the stage show's opening act.

It Covers A Vast Range of Styles 

"The plan was that we wouldn't write the usual Broadway-style Disney score," John later wrote in his 2019 memoir, Me, about his and Rice's approach to the film. "But try and come up with pop songs that kids would like."

Indeed, while the partnership of Menken and Ashman grounded their Disney sing-alongs in the worlds of musical theater and Tin Pan Alley, the new dream team were determined to venture outside the Mouse House's comfort zone.

The Lion King OST boasts everything from carefree novelty sing-alongs ("Hakuna Matata") and emotive showstoppers ("Can You Feel The Love Tonight") to campy villain songs ("Be Prepared") and rumba rockabilly ("I Just Can't Wait To Be King"). And then there's Zimmer's instrumental pieces that typically begin with cinematic strings before building up to a Zulu choir crescendo, immediately transporting listeners to the vast landscape of Pride Rock.

It Kickstarted Elton John's Second Career 

"I sat there with a line of lyrics that began, 'When I was a young warthog,'" John told Time magazine in 1995 about the inception of The Lion King soundtrack, "and I thought, 'Has it come to this?'"

The pop legend needn't have worried. The song in question, "Hakuna Matata," might not have been his most lyrically sophisticated. But the comic interlude proved that John could put an infectious melody to literally any subject. And alongside his four other contributions, it gave him the impetus to further explore the world of musical theater.

The Brit subsequently reunited with Rice for 2000's Aida, a pop-oriented adaptation of Giuseppi Verdi's same-named opera which earned a GRAMMY for Best Musical Show Album in 2001. And then in 2005, John struck Broadway gold once again with the multiple Tony Award-winning screen-to-stage transfer of ballet drama Billy Elliot. That same year, he also teamed up with regular collaboratorBernie Taupin on the score for Lestat, a musical version of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles.

It Formed Part Of The 2019 Remake 

Proof of just how well The Lion King soundtrack has endured came in 2019 when Jon Favreau's live-action remake borrowed all five of its vocal numbers. The performers were different, of course — see the likes of John Oliver on "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," Beyoncé and Donald Glover on "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," and Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner on "Hakuna Matata." But while Zimmer's reimaginings gave them an additional African flavor, the songs didn't stray too far from the source material.

But even with a starrier cast and a bunch of new compositions and covers, the new Lion King OST failed to strike the same chord with the cinemagoing public, selling just a fraction of its predecessor. Even Beyoncé's flagship single "Spirit" failed to peak any higher than No. 98 on the Hot 100. Sometimes, the originals truly are the best.

How 1995 Became A Blockbuster Year For Movie Soundtracks

Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1970

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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5 Things You Didn't Know About 'Crosby, Stills & Nash'

Featuring classics including "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," "Wooden Ships" and "Helplessly Hoping," Crosby, Stills and Nash's self-titled 1969 debut album is the ultimate entryway to the folk-rock supergroup. Here are five lesser-known facts about its making.

GRAMMYs/May 29, 2024 - 01:33 pm

They'd been on ice since 2015, yet the death of David Crosby in 2023 forever broke up one of the greatest supergroups we'll ever know.

Which means Crosby, Stills & Nash's five-decade career is now capped; there's no reunion without that essential, democratic triangle. (Or quadrangle, when Neil Young was involved.) "This group is like juggling four bottles of nitroglycerine," Crosby once quipped. Replied Stephen Stills, "Yeah — if you drop one, everything goes up in smoke."

Looking back on that strange, turbulent, transcendent career, one fact leaps out: there's no better entryway to the group than their 1969 debut, Crosby, Stills & Nash, which turns 55 this year. Not even its gorgeous 1970 follow-up, Déjà Vu — which featured a few songs with one singer and not the others — their sublimation was about to blow apart, leaving shards to fitfully reassemble through the years. (The Stills-Young Band, anyone? How about the Crosby-Nash gigs?)

Pull out your dusty old LP of Crosby Stills & Nash, and look in the eyes of the three artists sitting on a beat-up couch in their s—kickers. The drugs weren't yet unmanageable; any real drama was years, or decades away. Do they see their infamous 1974 "doom tour"? The album cover with hot dogs on the moon? That discordant, Crosby-sabotaged "Silent Night" in front of the Obamas (which happened to be the trio's last public performance)?

At the time of their debut, the three radiated unity, harmony and boundless promise — and classic Crosby, Stills & Nash cuts like "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" bottled it for our enjoyment forever. Here are five things you may not know about this bona fide folk-rock classic.

There Was Panic Over The Cover Photo

As silly as it seems today — nobody's going to visually mistake Crosby for Stills, or Stills for Nash — that the three were photographed out of order prompted a brief fire alarm.

"We were panicked about it: 'How could you have Crosby's name over Graham Nash?'" Ron Stone of the Geffen-Roberts company recalled in David Browne's indispensable book Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga Of Rock's Definitive Supergroup. (The explanation: it was still in flux whether they were going to be "Stills, Crosby & Nash" instead.)

The trio actually returned to the site of the photograph to reshoot the cover, but by that time, that decrepit old house on Palm Avenue in West Hollywood had been torn down. (It's a parking lot today, in case you'd like to drag a sofa out there.)

It Could Have Been A Double Album

At one point during Crosby, Stills & Nash's gestation, the idea was floated to render it a double album — one acoustic, one electric.

"Stephen was pushing them to do a rock-and-roll record instead of a folk album because he was the electric guy," session drummer Dallas Taylor said, according to Browne's book. "He wanted to play." (Back in the Buffalo Springfield, Stills and Young would engage in string-popping guitar duels on songs like "Bluebird," foreshadowing Young's impending electric workouts with Crazy Horse.)

Happily, the finished product blended both the band's electric and acoustic impulses; rockers like "Long Time Gone" happily snuggled up to acoustic meditations like "Guinnevere" sans friction.

Famous Friends Were Soaking Up The Sessions

As Browne notes, there was a "no outsiders decree" as this exciting triangulation of Buffalo Springfield, Hollies and Byrds members was secretly forged.

But rock royalty was in and out: at one point, Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun rolled up in a limo with an "eerily quiet" Phil Spector. Joni Mitchell, Cass Elliott, and Judy Collins also turned up — and, yes, Judy Collins, Stills' recent ex, was the namesake for the epochal "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes."

"It started out as a long narrative poem about my relationship with Judy Collins," Stills said in 1991. "It poured out of me over many months and filled several notebooks." (The "Thursdays and Saturdays" line refers to her therapy visits. "Stephen didn't like therapy and New York," Collins said in the book, "and I was in both.")

"Long Time Gone" Almost Didn't Make It On The Album

Crosby's probing rocker "Long Time Gone" meant a lot to him. He'd less written than channeled it from the ether, immediately after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

"It wasn't just about Bobby," he told Browne in the book. "He was the penultimate trigger. We lost John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and then we lost Bobby. It was discouraging, to say the least. The song was very organic. I didn't plan it. It just came out that way."

It was always considered for Crosby, Stills & Nash, but it was proving hard to capture it in the studio. It might have died on the vine had Stills not sent Crosby and Nash home so he could work on the arrangement — which took an all-nighter to get right.

When he played the others his new arrangement, an exhilarated Crosby tossed back wine, and dove into the song "with a new, deeper tone," as Browne puts it — "almost as if he were underwater tone, almost as if he were underwater and struggling for air."

Ertegun Boosted The Voices — And Thank Goodness He Did

For all the prodigious, multilayered talent in Crosby, Stills & Nash, it's their voices that were at the forefront of their art — and should have always been.

However, the original mix had their voices relatively lower in the mix; Ertegun, correctly perceiving that their voices were the main attraction, ordered a remix, and thank goodness he did. The band initially pushed back, but as Stills admitted, "Ahmet signs our paychecks." As they say, the rest is history.

David Crosby On His New Album For Free & Why His Twitter Account Is Actually Joyful

The Beach Boys performing in 1964
The Beach Boys performing in 1964

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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6 Things We Learned From Disney+'s 'The Beach Boys' Documentary

From Brian Wilson's obsession with "Be My Baby" and the Wall Of Sound, to the group's complicated relationship with Murry Wilson and Dennis Wilson's life in the counterculture, 'The Beach Boys' is rife with insights from the group's first 15 years.

GRAMMYs/May 28, 2024 - 08:31 pm

It may seem like there's little sand left to sift through, but a new Disney+ documentary proves that there is an endless summer's worth of Beach Boys stories to uncover.

While the legendary group is so woven into the fabric of American culture  that it’s easy to forget just how innovative they were, a recently-released documentary aims to remind. The Beach Boys uses a deft combination of archival footage and contemporary interviews to introduce a new generation of fans to the band.

The documentary focuses narrowly on the first 15 years of the Beach Boys’ career, and emphasizes what a family affair it was. Opening the film is a flurry of comments about "a certain family blend" of voices, comparing the band to "a fellowship," and crediting the band’s success directly to having been a family. The frame is apt, considering that the first lineup consisted of Wilson brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl, their cousin Mike Love, and high school friend Al Jardine, and their first manager was the Wilsons’ father, Murry.

All surviving band members are interviewed, though a very frail Brian Wilson — who was placed under a conservatorship following the January death of his wife Melinda — appears primarily in archival footage. Additional perspective comes via musicians and producers including Ryan Tedder, Janelle Monáe, Lindsey Buckingham, and Don Was, and USC Vice Provost for the Arts Josh Kun.

Thanks to the film’s tight focus and breadth of interviewees, it includes memorable takeaways for both longtime fans and ones this documentary will create. Read on for five takeaways from Disney+'s The Beach Boys.

Family Is A Double-Edged Sword

For all the warm, tight-knit imagery of the Beach Boys as a family band,  there was an awful lot of darkness at the heart of their sunny sound, and most of the responsibility for that lies with Wilson family patriarch Murry Wilson. Having written a few modest hits in the late 1930s, Murry had talent and a good ear, and he considered himself a largely thwarted genius.  

When Brian, Dennis, and Carl formed the Beach Boys with their cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, Murry came aboard as the band’s manager. In many respects, he was capable; his dogged work ethic and fierce protectiveness helped shepherd the group to increasingly high profile successes. He masterminded the extended Wilson family call-in campaign to a local radio station, pushing the Beach Boys’ first single "Surfin’" to become the most popular song in Los Angeles. He relentlessly shopped their demos to music labels, eventually landing them a contract at Capitol Records. He supported the band’s strong preference to record at Western Recordings rather than Capitol Records’ own in-house studio, and was an excellent promoter. 

Murry Wilson was also extremely controlling, fining the band when they made mistakes or swore, and "was miserable most of the time," according to his wife Audree. 

Footage from earlier interviews with Carl and Dennis, and contemporary comments from Mike Love make it clear that Murry was emotionally and physically abusive to his sons throughout their childhoods. He even sold off the Beach Boys’ songwriting catalog without consulting co-owner Brian, a moment that Brian’s ex-wife Marilyn says he felt so keenly that he took to his bed and didn’t get up for three days. 

Murry Wilson was at best a very complicated figure, both professionally jealous of his own children to a toxic degree and devoted to ensuring their success. 

"Be My Baby" and The Wrecking Crew Changed Brian Wilson’s Life

"Be My Baby," which Phil Spector had produced for the Ronettes in 1963, launched the girl group to immediate iconic status. The song also proved life-changing for Brian. On first hearing the song, "it spoke to my soul," and Brian threw himself into learning how Spector created his massive, lush Wall of Sound. Spector’s approach taught Brian that production was a meaningful art that creates an "overall sound, what [the listeners] are going to hear and experience in two and a half minutes." 

Read more: How Brian Wilson Crafted The Beach Boys' Early Sound: A Symphony Of Inspirations, From Boogie-Woogie To Barbershop

By working with The Wrecking Crew — a truly motley bunch of experienced, freewheeling musicians who played on Spector’s records and were over a decade older than the Beach Boys — Brian’s artistic sensibility quickly emerged. According to drummer Hal Blaine and bassist Carol Kaye, Brian not knowing what he didn’t know gave him the freedom and imagination to create sounds that were completely new and innovative. 

Friendly Rivalries With Phil Spector & The Beatles Yielded Amazing Pop Music

According to popular myth, the Beach Boys and the Beatles saw each other exclusively as almost bitter rivals for the ears, hearts, and disposable income of their fans. The truth is more nuanced: after the initial shock of the British Invasion wore off, the two groups developed and maintained a very productive, admiration-based competition, each band pushing the other to sonic greatness. 

Cultural historian and academic Josh Kun reframes the relationship between the two bands as a "transatlantic collaboration," and asks, "If they hadn’t had each other, would they have become what they became?" Could they have made the historic musical leaps that we now take for granted? 

Read more: 10 Memorable Oddities By The Beach Boys: Songs About Root Beer, Raising Babies & Ecological Collapse

The release of Rubber Soul left Brian Wilson thunderstruck. The unexpected sitar on "Norwegian Wood," the increasingly mature, personal songwriting, all of it was so fresh that "I flipped!" and immediately wanted to record "a thematic album, a collection of folk songs." 

Brian found life on the road soul-crushing and terrifying, and was much more content to stay home composing, writing, and producing. With the touring band out on the road, and with a creative fire lit under him by both the Beatles and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, he had time to develop into a wildly creative, exacting, and celebrated producer, an experience that yielded the 1966 masterpiece, Pet Sounds.

Pet Sounds Took 44 Years To Go Platinum

You read that right: Pet Sounds was a flop in the U.S. upon its release. Even after hearing radio-ready tracks like "Wouldn’t It Be Nice?" and "Sloop John B" and the ravishing "God Only Knows," Capitol Records thought the album had minimal commercial potential and didn’t give it the promotional push the band were expecting. Fans in the United Kingdom embraced it, however, and the votes of confidence from British fans — including Keith Moon, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney — buoyed both sales and the Beach Boys’ spirits.  

In fact, Lennon and McCartney credited Pet Sounds with giving them a target to hit when they went into the studio to record the Beatles’ own next sonically groundbreaking album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. As veteran producer and documentary talking head Don Was puts it, Brian Wilson was a true pioneer, incorporating "textures nobody had ever put into pop music before." The friendly rivalry continued as the Beatles realized that they needed to step up their game once more.

Read more: Masterful Remixer Giles Martin On The Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds,' The Beatles, Paul McCartney

Meanwhile, Capitol Records released and vigorously promoted a best-of album full of the Beach Boys’ early hits, Best Of The Beach Boys. The collection of sun-drenched, peppy tunes was a hit, but was also very out of step with the cultural and political shifts bubbling up through the anti-war and civil rights movements of the era. Thanks in part to later critical re-appraisals and being publicly embraced by musicians as varied as Questlove and Stereolab, Pet Sounds eventually reached platinum status in April 2000, 44 years after its initial release.

Dennis Wilson Was The Only Truly Beachy Beach Boy

Although the Beach Boys first made a name for themselves as purveyors of "the California sound" by singing almost exclusively about beaches, girls, and surfing, the only member of the band who really liked the beach was drummer Dennis Wilson.

Al Jardine ruefully recalls that "the first thing I did was lose my board — I nearly drowned" on a gorgeous day at Manhattan beach. Dennis was an actual surfer whose tanned, blonde good looks and slightly rebellious edge made him the instant sex symbol of the group. In 1967, when Brian’s depression was the deepest and he relinquished in-studio control of the band, Dennis flourished musically and lyrically. Carl Wilson, who had emerged as a very capable producer in Brian’s absence, described Dennis as evolving artistically "really quite amazingly…it just blew us away."

Dennis was also the only Beach Boy who participated meaningfully in the counterculture of the late 1960s, a movement the band largely sat out of, largely to the detriment of their image. He introduced the band to Transcendental Meditation — a practice Mike Love maintains to this day — and was a figure in the Sunset Strip and Laurel Canyon music scenes. Unfortunately, he also became acquainted with and introduced his bandmates to Charles Manson. Manson’s true goal was rock stardom; masterminding the gruesome mass murders that his followers perpetrated in 1969 was a vengeful outgrowth of his thwarted ambition. 

The Beach Boys did record and release a reworked version of one of Manson’s songs, "Never Learn Not To Love" as a B-side in 1968. Love says that having introduced Manson to producer Terry Melcher, who firmly rebuffed the would-be musician, "weighed on Dennis pretty heavily," and while Jardine emphatically and truthfully says "it wasn’t his fault," it’s easy to imagine those events driving some of the self-destructive alcohol and drug abuse that marked Dennis’ later years. 

The final minutes of The Beach Boys can be summed up as "if all else fails commercially, release a double album of beloved greatest hits." The 1970s were a very fruitful time for the band creatively, as they invited funk specialists Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar to join the band and relocated to the Netherlands to pursue a harder, more far-out sound. Although the band were proud of the lush, singer/songwriter material they were recording, the albums of this era were sales disappointments and represented a continuing slide into uncoolness and obscurity. 

Read more: Brian Wilson Is A Once-In-A-Lifetime Creative Genius. But The Beach Boys Are More Than Just Him.

Once again, Capitol Records turned to the band’s early material to boost sales. The 1974 double-album compilation Endless Summer, comprised of hits from 1962-1965, went triple platinum, relaunching The Beach Boys as a successful heritage touring act. A new generation of fans — "8 to 80," as the band put it — flocked to their bright harmonies and upbeat tempos, as seen in the final moments of the documentary when the Beach Boys played to a crowd of over 500,000 fans on July 4, 1980. 

While taking their place as America’s Band didn’t do much to make them cool, it did ensure one more wave of chart success with 1988’s No. 1 hit "Kokomo" and ultimately led to broader appreciation for Pet Sounds and its sibling experimental albums like Smiley Smile. That wave of popularity has proven remarkably durable; after all, they’ve ridden it to a documentary for Disney+ nearly 45 years later. 

Listen: 50 Essential Songs By The Beach Boys Ahead Of "A GRAMMY Salute" To America's Band