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‘Til I Die ( Beach Boys Brian Wilson Cover ) 04.10.10

This song has fascinated me for years. Written by Brian Wilson sometime between 1969 and 1971—reports vary, depending on the source—it was composed during what he admits was a dark period in his life. His father Murray, who presided over Brian’s music publishing—the Beach Boys were signed before they were considered adults in the court of law—had sold the songs against Brian’s will for $750,000, believing that the band’s best days were behind them. The music publishing was estimated to be valued at over $20 million annually about ten years ago, so who knows what it’s worth today. Brian Wilson was crushed. This act, on top of Brian’s inability to complete his masterpiece SMiLE in 1967 (for a myriad of reasons) lead to years of depression.

If one of your parents threw away a seminal piece of your life’s work, I can see how that might bring a guy down, for a few years anyway.

Thankfully Wilson got the help he needed, rebuilt his life, started a new family and band, and ultimately completed his magnum opus, SMiLE. It’s a triumph of the human spirit.

Brian Wilson is not known primarily as a lyricist, but he did write both words and music for this song, and it resonates on a deep, primordial level, as it contemplates with symbols and metaphors the big life questions we all grapple with in our minds.

I like the released version of the song (found on 1971’s great Beach Boys Surf’s Up album), but I also like the Steve Desper assembled early version as well. Desper was engineer for the ‘Til I Die sessions. The Desper version loops in the instrumental organ bed track at the beginning. That version was finally released in 1998, on The Beach Boys Endless Harmony compilation soundtrack.

It’s a beautiful, thoughtful song, and I like to sing and play it when I feel the urge to get into that head space. Life has its ups and downs, and it is far too short, but life is, indeed, awesome.

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