After five decades of making music, Mike Love and The Beach Boys have a varied catalog of hits and a diverse group of fans.
Known for upbeat summertime surfer songs of the early 1960s as well as artful pop creations like “Good Vibrations,” The Beach Boys regularly plays for old and young, toddlers and retirees.
“It’s really heartwarming for us and inspiring to see that our music keeps getting accepted and appreciated by successive generations,” said Love, 74, a vocalist and founding member of the band.
The Beach Boys will perform their classic American songbook Thursday night at the Baton Rouge River Center. They’ll start with the oldest tunes, the surfing songs and car songs with the “California sound” popular in the early 1960s, like “Surfing U.S.A.” and “I Get Around.” But they will also perform their work from the groundbreaking “Pet Sounds” album and a later hit, “Kokomo.”
“It’s chock full of hit songs,” Love said, “but then we have a lot of songs that aren’t as well known but are beautiful to do, that show another mood or feeling.”
Last year, Love and The Beach Boys played 175 tour dates all over the world. Staying on the road is difficult, but Love cherishes the chance to perform.
“It’s such a blessing in our lives to go out and play music,” he said.
Born in southern California, Love’s mother and her family loved music. She played opera music to get the kids up to go to school and kept a piano and a harp at home.
“I can’t remember when there wasn’t music in my life,” he said.
Love founded The Beach Boys with cousins Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson and friend Dennis Marks (and later Al Jardine) in 1961.
“My vocation has always been music since I’ve been 20 years old,” Love said. “So far, I haven’t had to go back into sheet metal work, which is what my father and grandfather did.”
On the current tour, Love is the only original member still performing. Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983, and Carl died of lung cancer in 1998. Brian Wilson and Al Jardine toured with Love as recently as 2012 in a 50th Anniversary tour
This fall, Love will publish an autobiography, “Good Vibration: My Life as a Beach Boy,” detailing his life, including the highs of creating hit songs and learning transcendental meditation to the lows.
“Emotionally, it’s a tough process,” he said of writing the book. “You talk about people literally dying in your family.”
The book will tell his side of the story about lawsuits against cousin Brian Wilson for songwriting credits.
“I haven’t really defended myself or had the need from an ego point of view to do ... a book,” Love said. “There has been a lot of misinformation, and I haven’t written too much, or there hasn’t been too much written about my role in all this.”
Mike Love on his Louisiana roots:
“My grandfather came out (to California) in 1909. He was born in the 1800s near Shreveport, La. He’s a genius because he had the sense to move to Southern California where my dad and I were born in the L.A. area. He was a very hard-working guy. He would take logs to the mill where they sawed up the logs. My grandfather Love was a hardworking guy who did very well. We lived a great lifestyle in Southern California, which was a beautiful area to grow up.”
Love on creating groundbreaking album “Pet Sounds”:
“We all sang our buns off on that thing. There is a CD that just plays the vocals on the tracks. It’s pretty amazing when you listen to just those vocals, the blends and the harmonies and the arrangements. It’s just incredible.”
Love on going to court to claim songwriting credits:
“I think it’s good to get my side of things out there. I was a lyricist. Brian was brilliant musically, but he always worked with somebody for words. I was a lyricist and provided hooks and lyrics for songs, but was not credited.
“So I had to go to court to get credit for my song lyrics back on ‘California Girls’ and ‘I Get Around’. On several other songs too, around 35 songs. That’s tough. Initially when the songs came out, all the credit and money were attributed to Brian, my cousin.
“We were very close when we were teenagers and stuff. But my uncle Murry got involved in the publishing end of things, which I didn’t even know what that was, and he cheated me. Brian was unable to deal with his dad and it never got rectified, so the only recourse I ever had was to go to court. And fortunately I did and was extremely successful in getting credit for the songs. Not all, but many. That in itself was painful, to have to sue your cousin for what you rightfully should have been given. That was not pleasant, but it was necessary.”