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Beach Boy Carl Wilson dead at 51

Graphic February 7, 1998
Web posted at: 9:53 p.m. EST (0253 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Carl Wilson, the lead guitarist and one of the founding members of the Beach Boys, has died of lung cancer. He was 51.

His death was announced Saturday by his family. Wilson, who was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer in the spring of 1997, died Friday evening in Los Angeles, with his family by his side.

"Even though he was diagnosed with cancer last year and going through treatment for a year, he was a real fighter," said publicist Alyson Dutch. "He participated in the (group's) entire summer tour this year."

He is survived by his wife, Gina, and two adult sons.

Beach Boys

It was in 1961 that Wilson formed the Beach Boys with his brothers Dennis and Brian and his cousin, Mike Love. Carl was still a teen-ager when the group first hit the charts, beginning a string of pop hits about surf, sun and the California lifestyle.

Among the group's hits were such 60s standards as "I Get Around," "Good Vibrations," "Help Me Rhonda" and "Surfin' U.S.A."

Ironically, Carl Dean Wilson, despite growing up in Southern California just five miles from the ocean, couldn't surf. But he could sing, and his voice took center stage on one of the group's biggest ballads, "God Only Knows."

But the group's joyful music masked family dramas underneath. Brian Wilson later claimed his father had ruled the band with a iron hand, and the Beach Boys perceived themselves to be in a fierce competition with another group on their record label, the Beatles.

Brian Wilson eventually had a nervous breakdown and left the group. Dennis Wilson died 1983 in a diving accident.

Carl Wilson

In 1981, Carl Wilson, saying he had grown tired of the group's focus on nostalgia and lack of musical growth, left to pursue a solo career. But he later changed his mind and rejoined the Beach Boys, performing with them until his death.

"We have a way, somehow, of bringing it new again," Carl said in a 1988 interview. "What we found is that when you really put yourself into it, it makes it newer, it makes it more present. It doesn't get older."

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

Correspondent Dennis Michael contributed to this report.

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