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Brian Wilson to tackle George Gershwin: ' "Smile" is "Rhapsody in Blue" circa 2004'

October 8, 2009 |  6:18 am

Former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has been authorized by the estate of George Gershwin to complete some of the late composer's unfinished songs, writes Randy Lewis in today's Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt: 

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."

But their career paths and evolution of their artistry have common threads, noted people involved with the project and some independent scholars, and that gives the proposed collaboration logic.

Todd Gershwin, George's great-nephew and a trustee of the George Gershwin family trusts, said, "George for his time was a visionary. He certainly crossed genres and musical lines, tried things that hadn't been done before and Brian Wilson has done exactly the same thing."

For his part, Wilson, 67, described himself Tuesday as "thrilled to death."

Lewis goes on to write that "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."

Rosenberger describes Wilson's "Smile," the planned follow-up to the 1966 album "Pet Sounds" that was ultimately finished in 2004, is "'Rhapsody in Blue' circa 2004."

You can sample the classic Gershwin composition, as well as "Heroes and Villains" from Wilson's "Smile," in this post.

Read more here.