Carl Wilson, a founding member of the Beach Boys and lead guitarist for the seminal surf band, has died from complications of lung cancer, his family said Saturday. He was 51.
Wilson, who also had brain cancer, died Friday evening in Los Angeles with his family at his side.
“Even though he was diagnosed with cancer last year and going through treatment for a year, he was real fighter,” said publicist Alyson Dutch. “He participated in the entire summer tour this year.”
Dutch said family members, including brother and fellow Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson, would not be available for comment.
Carl Dean Wilson was born in Hawthorne, a Los Angeles suburb about five miles from the Pacific. He learned to play guitar as a teenager and - with brothers Brian and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and friend Alan Jardine - founded The Beach Boys in 1961.
Dennis Wilson, who was killed in a swimming accident in 1983, came up with the idea of a surfing theme for the music. Brian Wilson and Love started writing lyrics, capitalizing on the surfing craze that began in the mid-1950s.
The Southern California quintet did not make its first public appearance until New Year’s Eve 1961 at Long Beach’s Municipal Auditorium. Their stage fright was not helped by the fact they could play only three songs.
Despite the limited repertoire, the audience embraced the group. Throughout the 1960s and later, the band defined the “surfing beat” with such songs as “I Get Around,” “Good Vibrations,” Help Me Rhonda” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.”
In the early 1980s, Carl Wilson said he tired of the Beach Boys’ focus on nostalgia and lack of musical growth. He left the quintet in 1981 to work on a solo career and released an album that year.
But he later rejoined the group and had performed with them ever since - including the Beach Boys’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Despite battling cancer, he completed the band’s 36th annual tour this summer, Dutch said.
In addition to his brother, survivors include wife Gina and sons Jonah and Justyn.