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Book details
  • Genre:MUSIC
  • SubGenre:Instruction & Study / Songwriting
  • Language:English
  • Series title:The Great Songwriters
  • Series Number:2
  • Pages:106
  • eBook ISBN:9781483521480

The Great Songwriters - Beginnings Vol 2

Paul Simon and Brian Wilson

by Michael J Roberts

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Overview
Songwriting insights and inspirational stories surrounding the greatest songwriters of all time. In Beginnings Vol 2 we look at two of the most significant American popular songwriters of the modern era, both who rose to prominence during the tumultuous 1960’s and whose work and influence will live on for many years yet. In some ways it’s a tale of two coasts, as Paul Simon emerged from the pseudo-intellectual folk scene in New York, while Brian Wilson and his group, The Beach Boys, emerged from the nascent surf scene in Los Angeles, but both writers soon left any easy attempts at musical categorisation behind.
Description
In Beginnings Vol 2 we look at two of the most significant American popular songwriters of the modern era, both who rose to prominence during the tumultuous 1960’s and whose work and influence will live on for many years yet. In some ways it’s a tale of two coasts, as Paul Simon emerged from the pseudo-intellectual folk scene in New York, while Brian Wilson and his group, The Beach Boys, emerged from the nascent surf scene in Los Angeles, but both writers soon left any easy attempts at musical categorisation behind. War Babies, born 6 months apart on either side of America’s belated entry into WWII, the pair came to maturity during a post-war boom, when America enjoyed a consumerist explosion of pre-Cambrian dimensions, accounting for the purchasing of 60% of the world’s consumer goods. By 1960, per capita income was 35% higher than in 1945, and 61% of American families were classified as middle-class, as opposed to just 30% during the 1930’s. Paul Simon grew up the son of a college professor and his education gave him a particular insight into the humanities and after falling under the spell of the Everly Brothers he moved into folk music, a musical form that allowed a more appropriate place for his humanist/intellectual musings. Brian Wilson was similarly energised by sweet harmonies, specifically the complex and jazz influenced harmonies of The Four Freshman. Wilson took the energy of rock and roll and applied the four part harmony singing of the Four Freshmen and also of the 1950’s Doo-Wop groups, a genre equally beloved by Simon. Simon and Wilson shared a love of music in their upbringings, but that’s where the similarities end. Paul’s father was a musician, “My daddy was a family bass man”, and an academic, but Brian’s father was “an asshole, he treated us like shit”, according to his brother Dennis. Murry Wilson was a frustrated songwriter, a driven and unforgiving authoritarian who beat his three sons regularly and Brian certainly blamed his father for the fact he was effectively deaf in one ear, as he was told it came from a blow to the head he suffered as a two year old. The teenage Brian may have watched Fred MacMurray, the benign and attentive father in the hit TV series My Three Sons and wondered at the gap between the TV fiction and the brutal reality the three Wilson sons suffered. Murry was a real life, if more violent Willy Loman, an unhappy salesman who took out his frustrations at home. For Paul Simon music was an adventure, for Brian Wilson it was an escape. The two entered the fray at a good time for music in industry terms, as the growth initiated by the first wave of rock and roll from 1955 to 1960 saw the music industry in the USA increase in net value from $60 million to $205 million and it would increase again by 1965 to $600 million, as Baby Boom teenagers found significant disposable income. For many Americans the anodyne, antiseptic and absurdly prosperous 1950’s came to a shattering end, not in 1960 but in 1963, with John Kennedy’s tragic assassination and both Simon and Wilson were professional musicians by then. Both men came to prominence within a few short years of each other and even though they were separated by the width of the continent they actually shared a key connection, the Wrecking Crew, Phil Spector’s ace session players, who played on several iconic Simon and Garfunkel and Beach Boy tracks. Paul Simon and Brian Wilson also shared an inquisitive and relentless curiosity about music, both pushing their knowledge and refining their capabilities, rather than rest on their laurels. Paul became an accomplished and virtuoso guitar player and Brian became the last word in stacking and layering vocal harmonies to enrich his compositions.
About the author
Michael J Roberts is a Sydney based musician, producer and writer with extensive experience in the music industry. Michael began as singer-songwriter in bands in Hobart in the late ‘70’s, having two local top twenty hits with songs co-written with his Albatross band mate, and song writing partner, Anthony Ackroyd. Anthony and Michael signed to Glenn Wheatley’s Tumbleweed Music as 19 year olds, before re-locating in the 80’s to Sydney and signing a contract with Chappell Music. The pair worked extensively in musical theatre and comedy shows, before writing ‘Raging’, the first song ever played on ABC’s iconic video show ‘Rage’. Michael also worked in theatre, writing and performing the children’s musical with Judy Nunn and Bruce Venables, The Riddle of the Trumpalar. Michael has produced and supported the successful, award winning children’s group Captain Bandanna, as well as albums for folk stalwarts Kate Delany and Phyl Lobl. Michael co-scored the low budget horror-satire film, Mad Bomber in Love with Phil Rigger, as well as several documentaries for Government agencies. Michael has produced multi Mo Award winning artist Rikki Organ’s debut and follow up albums, My Dad’s First Album, and A Tribute to JOK. Michael produced two UK Americana number one albums for Scottish-Australian singer-songwriter Karl Broadie, in Nowhere Now Here and Black Crow Calling, touring the UK extensively in Karl’s band in 2005 to promote the second, Golden Guitar nominated album. Michael also produced Red Dust, the debut album from Den Hanrahan, and the debut album from ex Home and Away star Craig Thomson, called Long Way There. Michael nurtured and produced Katie Brianna’s debut album, Dark Side of the Morning. Michael writes about his passion for feature film on his own website, Filmycks, (www.filmycks.com) and is currently working on a feature film screenplay and a book on the counter culture of the 1960’s. Michael is a multi-instrumentalist, a piano player and guitarist primarily, but has contributed variously on accordion, mandolin, to albums by Chuck’s Wagon and The Dear Orphans, as well as playing bass on his brother Paul’s debut EP. Michael’s wide experience and extensive knowledge and passion for modern song writing leaves him perfectly positioned to communicate his incisive and informative analysis of the artistry and skill needed to write great songs.
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