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Music / Bruce Johnston

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He writes the songs.

Bruce Johnston (born Benjamin Baldwin; June 27, 1942), is an American singer-songwriter-producer-instrumentalist who is mostly known as a member of The Beach Boys.

Growing up as an adopted child in a rich family, Bruce was musically gifted and went on to have a major presence in the growing music scene of Southern California in the early sixties (as well as some hits, including "Hey Little Cobra" by The Rip Chords). It was thanks to this that Brian Wilson saw talent in him and chose him as a replacement for Glen Campbell who was already replacing Brian as a bassist/falsetto singer when The Beach Boys were on tour. He was then promoted as a proper Beach Boy but couldn't appear in any promotional footage due to contractual obligations. Nevertheless, he started to contribute in the band's repertoire and would get a highlight on the Sunflower album on which he wrote two songs and sang lead vocals on four tracks (notably "Deirdre" which went on to be known for different reasons after being sampled on the soundtrack of the 1994 video game Earthbound). The song "Disney Girls (1957)" from the following album Surf's Up is also a fan favourite.

After Blondie Chaplin and Ricki Fataar joined The Beach Boys, he left the band in order to pursue his solo career. He gained success by penning "I Write The Songs" which earned him a Grammy when Barry Manilow covered it. He also co-founded the band California Music along with Brian Wilson, Terry Melcher and other Beach Boys sidemen. After Brian's health was deteriorating in the late seventies, Bruce joined back The Beach Boys and was also their producer on two albums. He would remain a Beach Boy since then and still tours along with founding member Mike Love.

As a songwriter, he specializes in ballads and came up with some of The Beach Boys' softest songs. He also has a wide variety of collaborators, such as Elton John, Pink Floyd, Eric Carmen, Captain & Tennille, Skrillex and The Weeknd.


His work provides examples of:

  • Artist and the Band: Bob Sled & The Toboggans is a short lived side-project of Bruce which only released one single in 1963. Its gimmick was to mix Surf Rock with skiing.
  • Ascended Extra: From a touring member (replacing Glen Campbell who was also a touring member) to an official Beach Boy during 1965.
  • Boke and Tsukkomi Routine: On some Beach Boys concert banters, Bruce and Mike Love would sometimes joke about the meaning of A Cappella and the fact that Bruce was the only Beach Boy to have a grammy.
  • Classically-Trained Extra: Despite studying classical piano at a dedicated school, he would go on to have a career in the sixties' rock scene and play a minor role in The Beach Boys' history.
  • Concept Album: "Surfin' Round The World" is a surf-themed album from which all tracks reference surfing or surfing spots.
  • Grammy Award: Before Brian Wilson earned a grammy for Brian Wilson Presents Smile, Bruce was the only Beach Boy to have one (and it was the subject of jokes during concert banters).
  • Jingle: In this audio excerpt, Bruce creates an A Cappella radio jingle for Radio Veronica by stacking up vocal overdubs on the spot and without failing a take.
  • Long Runner: The second longest serving member of The Beach Boys after Mike Love, he is still touring and working in the music industry.
  • Noodle Incident: The year from the title of "Disney Girls (1957)" has never been explained by Bruce or any other Beach Boy.
  • Renaissance Man: Guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, singer, songwriter, arranger, producer; Bruce has them all covered.
  • Silly Love Songs: One of the most recurring types of songs in his career.
  • Sixth Ranger: His tenure as a Beach Boy from 1965 to 1972 (Ricki Fataar and Blondie Chaplin joining the band) then 1978 to 1983 (Dennis Wilson's death)
  • Teen Genius: In 1959, at the age of 17, he arranged and played on the song "Teen Beat" for Sandy Nelson which reached the charts' Top 10 and went gold. The same year, he released his first single "Take This Pearl".
  • Temporary Substitute: He replaced Glen Campbell who was already replacing Brian Wilson on bass and vocal duties.
  • Vocal Evolution: His voice has gone largely unchanged for the most part except that it now sounds a little deeper and less nasally. This actually works to his advantage whenever he sings "Disney Girls (1957)", as his voice now sounds much more soothing, giving a very lullaby-esque feeling to it.