Love and Mercy

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"Love and Mercy"
"Love and Mercy" single cover.jpg
Single by Brian Wilson
from the album Brian Wilson
B-side "He Couldn't Get His Poor Old Body to Move"
Released July 1, 1988 (1988-07-01)
Recorded April 1987–February 1988
Genre Progressive pop
Length 2:56
Label Sire
Songwriter(s) Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson singles chronology
"Let's Go to Heaven In My Car"
"Love and Mercy"
"Melt Away"

"Let's Go to Heaven In My Car"
"Love and Mercy"
"Melt Away"
Music video
"Love and Mercy" on YouTube
Audio sample

"Love and Mercy" is a song written by Brian Wilson and the opening track to his 1988 debut solo album Brian Wilson. The song was released as a double-sided single on July 1, 1988 backed with "He Couldn't Get His Poor Old Body to Move". It failed to chart in either the United States or the United Kingdom despite earning critical praise.[citation needed]


The song was originally credited to Brian Wilson, his therapist Eugene Landy, and Alexandra Morgan. On later issues of Brian's debut album and subsequent remakes and live performances of the song, the credit was amended to only include Wilson as the song's sole writer.[citation needed] Wilson has said of the song:

I was in my piano room, playing "What the World Needs Now," and I just went into my own song…worked very hard to get out what was in my heart on that one…it’s a personal message from me to people.…We wanted people to be covered with love, because there’s no guarantee of somebody waking up in the morning with any love. It goes away, like a bad dream. It disappears. Mercy would be a deeper word than love. I would think love is a gentle thing and mercy would be more desperate, ultimately more desperately needed, thing in life. Mercy–a little break here and there for somebody who’s having trouble.…"Love and Mercy" is probably the most spiritual song I’ve ever written.[1]

The song features Wilson on lead vocals, as well as a lot of the backing vocals, and is characterized by its pattern of descending chords.[2] The lyrics included an extra verse unused in the final edit: "I was praying to a god who just doesn't seem to hear / Oh, the blessings we need the most are what we all fear".[citation needed]

Release history[edit]

The "Love and Mercy" single backed with the rare B-side "He Couldn't Get His Poor Old Body to Move" was released through Sire Records in the United States in July 1988, and in the United Kingdom in August 1988. It failed to make any impact on the charts.[citation needed] "He Couldn't Get His Poor Old Body to Move" was a collaboration recorded during 1986 summer sessions between Wilson and Gary Usher.[3] "Love and Mercy" was first released on an album in 1988 on Wilson's self-titled debut album with production by Wilson and Russ Titelman. On later CD re-issues of Brian's debut album, the song has been released as a bonus track without the lead vocal.[citation needed]

A remake of the song was recorded for the 1995 soundtrack to the documentary I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, which was produced by Wilson and Don Was.[citation needed] The remake of the song features a much more sparse production and a more relaxed lead vocal from Wilson.[according to whom?]

In November 2005, another rerecording of the song in medley with a new Wilson composition, "Walking Down the Path of Life", was issued through Oglio Records as a digital-only single. A special Wilson-autographed edition was also available for physical purchase at a much steeper price. According to the website responsible for selling the single, the proceeds from the single were to be put towards helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina.[citation needed] This recording was issued again as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of Wilson's 2015 album No Pier Pressure.[citation needed]

Live performances[edit]

Wilson performed the song live as the encore heard on his 2000 live album Live at the Roxy Theatre and as the encore of his performance of Smile at Carnegie Hall.[4]

Wilson, along with the Boys Choir of Harlem, concluded with the song at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City on March 29, 2001. The concert, billed as "An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson", was filmed and later released on DVD. On January 15, 2005 Wilson performed the song as part of Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope which aired on NBC.[5] On September 10, 2005, Wilson and his band appeared in Los Angeles on the ReAct Now: Music & Relief concert, which was a relief concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The performance included both "Love and Mercy" and his new song "Walking Down The Path of Life".[citation needed]

Other musicians[edit]

When discussing the 2004 Madrid train bombings in the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, Bono states that "'Love and Mercy' is one of the great songs ever written ... I can't think of a greater song to be sung than Brian Wilson singing 'Love and Mercy'. Because, in a way, they're the two feelings that those terrorists sought to destroy."[6]

Cover versions[edit]

In popular culture[edit]