Sometimes fate throws together two people who ordinarily would never be paired. It happened 15 years ago today, 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.
Beach Boy Carl Wilson
Carl Wilson was a Beach Boy – younger than brothers Brian and Dennis and the second of the Wilson brothers to die, at age 51 on February 6, 1998. 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.”
(Photo via Amazon.com)
Austrian rock star Falco was just 40 years old when he died 15 years ago today. Born Johann Hölzel, he took his pseudonym in honor of East German skier Falko Weißpflog, though Falco himself was never an athlete. Falco may not have enjoyed the wild U.S. success of the Beach Boys, but he’s certainly known here. Anyone who listened to ‘80s pop music no doubt recalls the song that made Falco the only native German speaker ever to hit No. 1 on the U.S. charts: “Rock Me Amadeus.”
Inspired by the 1984 movie Amadeus, the single was a massive hit in spring 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 was at least a two-hit wonder). With its synthesized sounds, unusual subject, and eclectic blend of German and English, “Rock Me, Amadeus” exemplifies the weird 1980s.
Fifteen years after Falco’s death, we can’t forget him – and God only knows, we will keep on rocking to Carl Wilson’s classic tunes.
Written by Linnea Crowther