In a surprise union of two quintessentially American composers from different eras, one the 1960s mastermind of "Good Vibrations," the other the Jazz Age creator of "Rhapsody in Blue," former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has been authorized by the estate of George Gershwin to complete unfinished songs Gershwin left behind when he died in 1937.
He plans to finish and record at least two such pieces on an album of Gershwin music he hopes to release next year.
The Gershwin-Wilson project may strike some as an odd coupling: one New York musician famous for sophisticated 1920s and '30s pop songs including " 'S Wonderful" and "Someone to Watch Over Me" as well as such expansive, classically minded compositions as "Rhapsody"; the other the driving force behind Southern California beach culture hits such as "Surfin' U.S.A.," "I Get Around" and "California Girls." ...
The Gershwin project grew out of a proposal to Wilson from Walt Disney Records for a two-album contract.
"I'm a massive Brian Wilson fan," label president David Agnew said. "I'd always wanted to do something with him, and the Gershwin angle was something I had always thought about. In so many interviews he has mentioned Gershwin as a big influence, and if you listen to his music, that influence is obvious."
Meanwhile, the Gershwin estate and Warner/Chappell Music, the Gershwin publisher, had been considering what to do with the many song fragments in their archive. A pianist working from manuscripts left by Gershwin recorded the music at the behest of the estate, according to Brad Rosenberger, senior vice president of catalog development and marketing for Warner/Chappell.
"When we did this, nobody had any idea that an artist like Brian Wilson was even thinking about doing something like this," Rosenberger said.