Do you ever have to prepare yourself emotionally before listening to a music artist? I do for very few and Brian Wilson is one of them. He’s a hero to me and it goes beyond his music.

’Looking out toward the ocean, my mind, as it did almost every hour of every day, worked to explain the inconsistencies that dominated my life…’

Article reviewed and updated 5.18.23.

Brian Douglas Wilson: composer, singer, musician, producer, and founding member of the Beach Boys.

“Good, what else is new?” Not so fast. Here’s what Neil Young had to say about him…

He’s like Mozart or Chopin or Beethoven or something. This music will live forever. It’s going to be these melodies and these words, and it’s just fantastic. I can’t describe it. There’s very few writers I feel the emotional and spiritual contact with that I feel with Brian

High praise.

We’re going to be discussing one of Brian’s songs, including the lyrics. It deals with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. If you believe it may be triggering, please feel free to close the piece.

“‘Til I Die”

Was going through my music library the other day and came upon a song I hadn’t listened to in a while. It was “‘Til I Die” by the Beach Boys and I’ll bet I played it 10 times.

The song was written and produced by Brian. In fact, it’s one of the very few songs that in addition to the music, he wrote the lyrics.

It’s a beautifully haunting song, expressing Brian’s struggles with disabling depression, anxiety, auditory hallucinations, and substance use.

The lyrics…

I’m a cork on the ocean
Floating over the raging sea
How deep is the ocean?
How deep is the ocean?

I lost my way
Hey hey hey

I’m a rock in a landslide
Rolling over the mountainside
How deep is the valley?
How deep is the valley?

It kills my soul
Hey hey hey

I’m a leaf on a windy day
Pretty soon I’ll be blown away
How long will the wind blow?
How long will the wind blow?

Until I die. Until I die.

These things I’ll be until I die

Gives me goosebumps every time, especially with the music. There’s a link at the end if you’d like to give it a go.

The inspiration

So how did Brian find the inspiration for writing “‘Til I Die?” He made a late night trip to a beach somewhere in Los Angeles County in November of 1969. According to Brian…

Lately, I’d been depressed and preoccupied with death…Looking out toward the ocean, my mind, as it did almost every hour of every day, worked to explain the inconsistencies that dominated my life; the pain, torment, and confusion and the beautiful music I was able to make. Was there an answer? Did I have no control? Had I ever?

Feeling shipwrecked on an existential island, I lost myself in the balance of darkness that stretched beyond the breaking waves to the other side of the earth. The ocean was so incredibly vast, the universe was so large, and suddenly I saw myself in proportion to that, a little pebble of sand, a jellyfish floating on top of the water; traveling with the current I felt dwarfed, temporary. The next day I began writing ‘Til I Die’, perhaps the most personal song I ever wrote for The Beach Boys.

Between what you just read and the lyrics, can you relate to what was on Brian’s mind – and his feelings?

I can and it takes me to both distressing and healing places.

Notes

It never ceases to amaze me that the man who wrote that song also wrote lighter pieces, such as “Fun Fun Fun,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “California Girls,” and “Good Vibrations.”

One other note. The image of Brian I chose was shot in 1976. He had just emerged from his recluse period during which he holed up in the chauffeur’s quarters of his estate. For two years he slept and binged on drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, food, and self-destructive behavior.

Close to death, Brian made it through.

Brian Wilson now

Brian’s 80 now. After his most recent concert in July of 2022, his daughter, Carnie, said it may well be his last.

Brian left this message for his fans on his website…

I’m doin’ good – actually kind of busy doin’ nothin’ these days, but it’s OK! Take care and stay safe!

Hang in there, Brian. You suffered horribly, worked hard to recover, and continued to bring joy.

Thank you.

If you’d like to give it a go: “‘Til I Die”

To learn much more about Brian, be sure to read my other article about him: The Wonder of Brian Wilson: An inspiring story of beauty, near-death, and recovery

More Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles? Hit the titles.

Brian Wilson image: public domain

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