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Amadeus Only Knows

Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives

Amadeus Only Knows

Sometimes fate throws together two people who ordinarily would never be paired. It happened Feb. 6, 1998, when musicians Carl Wilson and Falco died. Had chance let either man live another day, they'd most likely never exist in the same thought. As it is, we're spending today remembering two men with very different styles but a similar love for music.

Carl Wilson was a Beach Boy — younger brother of Brian and Dennis Wilson and, at 51, the second of the Wilson brothers to die. Carl's guitar playing helped drive the young band toward finding the sound that worked for them. His early mastery of the surfin' sound gave way to a more sophisticated style that helped the Beach Boys mature into one of the top rock bands of all time. He also sang harmony vocals and, in some cases, he took the lead. You'll hear Carl Wilson at the forefront of Beach Boys hits like "Good Vibrations," "Darlin," "Wild Honey," and the song that he always stood to sing, even near the end of his life when lung cancer kept him confined to a stool for the rest of a concert. That hit was "God Only Knows."

Wilson once described the joy he got from singing it: "I was honored to be able to sing that one. It is so beautifully written, it sings itself. Brian said something like, 'Don't do anything with it. Just sing it real straight. No effort. Take in a breath. Let it go real easy.' I was really grateful to be the one to sing that song. I felt extremely lucky."

FalcoAustrian rock star Falco was just 40 when he died Feb. 6, 1998. Born Johann Hölzel, he took his pseudonym in honor of East German skier Falko Weißpflog, though the singer himself was never an athlete. Falco may not have enjoyed the same wild success in the U.S. that the Beach Boys did, but anyone who listened to '80s pop music no doubt recalls the song that made Falco the only native German speaker ever to reach No. 1 on the U.S. charts: "Rock Me, Amadeus."

Inspired by the 1984 movie Amadeus, the single was a massive hit in the spring of 1986, spawning tributes, parodies and claims that Falco was a one-hit wonder (though considering the top-20 performance of his follow-up "Vienna Calling," he proved to be at least a two-hit wonder). With its synthesized sounds, unusual subject matter, and eclectic blend of German and English, "Rock Me, Amadeus" exemplifies the weird 1980s.

Decades after Falco's death, we can't forget him — and God only knows, we will keep on rocking to the classic tunes of Carl Wilson and the Beach Boys for decades to come.