Brian And The Blowfish

From TWP's report on last night's Kennedy Center Honors:

[Brian] Wilson got the final set of Honors, a tribute kicked off by a fuzzy-as-ever Art Garfunkel, who described hearing Wilson's music for the first time: "It was this unique, crazy creation: a mix of rock-and-roll and heartfelt prayer."

And, er, drugs? No, drugs were not mentioned, just as no diva antics were mentioned for Ross. This was an evening of whitewashed kindness, unadulterated gushing. (Garfunkel did say, "He is in a world of his own vibrations.") Next to fete Wilson was Lyle Lovett (Lyle Lovett?) doing a melancholic take on "God Only Knows (What I'd Be Without You)." Not your typical association with California surfin' and sunshine, but Wilson seemed touched - as he also appeared to be by a Hootie and the Blowfish (Hootie and the Blowfish?) medley of Beach Boys tunes, which ultimately brought the audience to its feet for a "California Girls" singalong.

And finally, a South London boys choir (a South London - oh, cherubic kids are always a crowd-pleaser). "We were born a long, long way from your California beaches," said one member of Libera, "but the warmth of your music can be felt" all the way in England. They sang a harmonic and tear-jerking rendition of "Love and Mercy" - Ross could be seen dabbing her eyes and looking toward the ceiling to prevent mascara runnage.

To which I can only say: HOOTIE AND THE BLOWFISH?!??!

Let the Monday-morning quarterbacking commence.

Not having attended the Honors, I have no idea how the performances were. (The show will be broadcast Dec. 26 on PBS.) But boys choir aside, I can't say that I love the lineup of artists selected to perform Brian Wilson's songs. Not even sure I like it. The connections seem tenuous.

Diana Ross was properly honored with a lineup that had Smokey Robinson batting leadoff before Jordin Sparks, Vanessa Williams and Ciara brought the diva noise.

Brian Wilson? He got a couple of leftovers from Paul Simon's Gershwin Prize soiree and Hootie. Is that any way to fete a genius?

Where were his indie-rock disciples - Sufjan Stevens, the Shins, the High Llamas, Apples in Stereo, etc.? Or the Barenaked Ladies, the Canadian goofballs with that "Brian Wilson" song? Or Glen Campbell or Bruce Johnston, who followed Brian in the Beach Boys? Or, you know, that McCartney guy whose band Wilson's work inspired back in the '60s - and vice-versa? (Then again, Macca has blown off the KenCen Honors before - and he was supposed to be a recipient!)

Elton John said he wanted to be there for his old friend but had a commitment in Australia. Bruce Springsteen, whose new album "Magic" has a couple of tracks with a clear "Pet Sounds" influence, is touring in Europe. So they're both off the hook.

The producers of the KenCen Honors? Not so much.

By J. Freedom du Lac |  December 3, 2007; 8:50 AM ET Brian Wilson , Kennedy Center Honors , Screeds
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Weird, because when you read the official Kennedy Center bio, it's clear that whoever wrote it "gets" Brian and his music. Why not Cale, or Corgan, or any permutation of CSNY (Neil Young has had Brian at his Bridge School concerts repeatedly), or Lindsey Buckingham... or, for that matter, Al Jardine.

On that topic, look on the bright side: Mike Love stayed home.

Posted by: Max | December 3, 2007 3:14 PM

Why not have Barenaked Ladies perform "Brian Wilson"?

Posted by: bmfc1 | December 3, 2007 3:50 PM

I didn't see the show, so I can't speak to the performance. But, I would like to make a general comment on Hootie and the Blowfish. The comment is offered with the disclosure that I know the band members and am friends with one of them. In any event, the band seems to be the butt of a lot of cheap jokes, but that sure is an easy and cheap low blow.

There was no comment on their performance, just the implication that somehow it was inappropriate for them to perform at this event. However, their music is pop as is the Beach Boys' music. They are all competent musicians, unlike many stars of today who can not perform without computers and pitch correction machines. Their newest album is better than 90% of the material that is popular today. Additionally, they are good human beings and are involved in numerous charitable functions in SC and elsewhere.

Yeah, this is a lazy dis against some good guys who are also good musicians. Go take a listen to Looking for Lucky and maybe you will stop taking such cheap shots at a good band made up of good humans.



Posted by: Bentz | December 3, 2007 4:21 PM

Amen to that Bentz!! I saw them in concert in their "prime" of popularity in 1996 and I saw them again in 2004 -- still great.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | December 3, 2007 4:28 PM

You there, in the defensive crouch; you're missing the point. It has nothing to do with their musicianship or their humanitarian efforts or whatever ... and everything to do with lack of a discernible link between Hootie's straight-forward heartland rock and Brian Wilson's brilliant and complex teenage symphonies to God. Hootie is the bar band that won the lotto; Brian Wilson is a genius who advanced the pop-music ball in a very meaningful way. They're simply not from the same artistic tree. No complaints if Hootie is invited to perform at the John Mellencamp tribute. But serving as a key cog in a Brian Wilson tribute? Sorry, but they just weren't made for these times.

Posted by: Freedom | December 3, 2007 4:48 PM

I have to echo the sentiments above regarding Hootie and the Blowfish. And I, too, offer the caveat that a member of the band is a good friend of my family. But even with that bias, I can tell you that I think it was an entirely appropriate choice. Some of my best concert memories are down in Charleston watching the boys from Hootie get the crowd to its feet to sing and dance and sweat in the insufferable SC humidity. It's summer beach music at its best! (And Bentz is right, the guys are all great musicians!) If you are too concerned about trying to divine the appropriateness of the line up to appreciate the good vibrations had by all, then it is only you who lost out on the night!

And, while not on point, I still find it worth noting that in today's world of shallow, paparazzi-obsessed starlets and pop stars, it is commendable to see a music group that remembers its roots and gives back to its community in the ways that Hootie and the Blowfish do. Kudos to them!

Posted by: Kelley | December 3, 2007 5:00 PM

Hootie? It could have been Jessica Simpson or Faith Hill. So let's count a few blessings, shall we?

But seriously, I did a quick Google, and here are some of the artists who claimed to be inspired by those boys of the beach:
Peter Buck
Tom Petty
John Cale
Eric Carmen (tho, didn't he just have some legal trouble?)
Glen (freakin') Campbell
Elvis Costello.

Any of these would have been appropriate.

Also, a quick Google explains the South African Boy's Choir. Apparently, South African musicians Rikki Fataar and Blondie Chaplin were good friends with Brian. On a less positive note, Brian and the Boys played Sun City in 1981.

Posted by: S.Spring | December 3, 2007 6:20 PM

Hate to nitpick, but it's a South *London* boys choir. And speaking as one of Libera (the aforementioned choir)'s biggest fans, I too was struck by the tenuous link between all the tribute acts and Brian Wilson's illustrious career.

Not that I'm complaining. I can't wait to hear their rendition of "Love and Mercy." But when I first found out, I was incredulous. I became much less so when I saw who the other performers were. It just seems like such a random selection. Hey, do you like the Beach Boys? You do? Doing anything Sunday?

Maybe it'll all become clearer on the 26th.

Posted by: Meredith | December 4, 2007 1:43 AM

I watched it and Hootie and the Blowfish were GREAT. The most rocking rock and roll in a long time, and they really rocked the songs, especially California Girls. It was really rocking...Who can ask for anything more than someone to come out and be real and really rock it? Well done. Just a nice, nice job. Vocals were good, got better on 2nd song as they got going, and so great, really. I bet the most rocking Kennedy Center has ever been.

Posted by: :B | December 27, 2007 3:51 PM

From this review and others I've read, it is clear that the critics simply didn't like the choice of having hootie and the blowfish perform, while the fans absolutlely loved their performance. All of the members of Hootie are very talented musicians. If Hootie and the Blowfish "brought the audience to its feet" it clearly wasn't a bad choice. They did there job. There is no need for the Hootie bashing. I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't listened to more than 4 Hootie and the Blowfish songs, Mr. J. Freedom du Lac. If you had you would have realized that they have made some very good music throughout the years and consistently one of the best live bands to see. My point is that if the audience and viewers enjoyed the performance then Hootie did their job. Next time I suggest you do some research before you poke fun at a band based on what some people say about them. The people who poke fun at Hootie most likely bought the first album then just forgot about them. If people listen to their other material I doubt Hootie would be the butt of so many jokes

Posted by: Dabs | December 30, 2007 6:22 PM

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