The Songs of Summer #41: ‘Soulful Old Man Sunshine’ by The Beach Boys
When we last left The Beach Boys, they were hanging out with The Fat Boys and their 1987 novelty rap hit ‘Wipeout.’ And now it’s time to cleanse our Beach Boys palate with something a bit, um….better. Something like ‘Soulful Old Man Sunshine.’
‘Soulful Old Man Sunshine‘ is a song written by Brian Wilson and Rick Hess, and recorded in late 1969, as the band was entering an era of diminished popularity. Their chart-topping days were behind them, but The Beach Boys were still capable of writing and recording beautiful gems, even if they struggled to record entire albums of them. There are hidden jewels in their post-Pet Sounds catalog, just waiting to be discovered.
‘Soulful Old Man Sunshine‘ was recorded in ’69, but was never released until it was included on the 1998 compilation Endless Harmony, a collection of previously-unreleased material. Which is exactly where I heard it. Its jazzy, swinging arrangement is atypical of normal The Beach Boys sound, largely due to the jazz studio musicians who performed on the track. But those vocals are pure Beach Boys…Something magical happens when this particular group of voices sings those gorgeous Brian Wilson-arranged vocal harmonies.
Some trivia about the song: It was originally going to be released on the essential 1993 Beach Boys box set Good Vibrations (well worth checking out if you can find a copy – it’s out of print) but legend has it that Carl Wilson (who sings the lead vocal on the track) wouldn’t allow it due to a flub around the 2:10 mark in the song, where he sings “shunshine” instead of “sunshine.” We’d have to wait five more years to hear the song….perhaps not coincidentally, Endless Harmony was released in 1998 after Carl Wilson’s death earlier that same year.
I love the sound of this song. Summer is better with the sunshine, and it’s much better with The Beach Boys.
BONUS!!! Listen to ‘Unknown Harmonies,’ an unreleased Beach Boys vocal harmony track from 1968. It’s the sound of angels singing.