The Beach Boys' music provided the soundtrack to life in Southern California during the 1960s. Brian Wilson was (and still is) a brilliant songwriter who wrote some absolute classics such as "Surfin' USA", "Surfer Girl," "California Girls," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," and "Good Vibrations," among others. The vocal texture that Wilson created in harmony with his brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Al Jardine, and friend Mike Love was unique and distinctive.
On a more personal level, I feel a distinct kinship with the band's music because of my own childhood experiences.
I was born in Los Angeles in 1972. For the first six months of my life, I lived in Hollywood and L.A.'s Chinatown before going with my family to Hong Kong for two years. When I returned to California in 1974, my family settled in the city of Hawthorne, California. Hawthorne is a classic Southern California middle class town located just a few miles from the LA International Airport. The town is also just a few miles from the beach (particularly Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach). When we lived in Hawthorne, my family often drove to the beach after dinner on warm summer evenings. These were happy childhood memories.
On the last day of school in my kindergarten year (1978) at Ramona School in Hawthorne, the school played the Beach Boys' "Surfin USA" over the PA system. This was the first time I'd ever heard a Beach Boys song in my life, and I had no idea who the Beach Boys were. I knew that I liked the song, however, and as I grew up, I came to know and like many more of their songs.
It wasn't until I was a young adult, however, that I discovered why my elementary school played a Beach Boys song on the last day of school. The Beach Boys were born and raised in Hawthorne. The Wilson family's old home was literally just blocks from where my grandfather lived at the time. They had attended the same elementary school (Ramona) where I'd attended kindergarten, 1st Grade, and part of 2nd Grade (before my family moved away from Hawthorne to Monterey Park, California). It explained why I had always felt such a deep personal connection to the band's music, however. Their songs were about places and things that I had experienced personally during childhood. Thus, their songs had and have special meaning to me. I feel very much at home with the Beach Boys' music, and their songs always evoke memories of childhood in Hawthorne and those summer nights watching the sunset on the golden Southern California coast.
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