Wonderful (Beach Boys song)

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Song by The Beach Boys
from the album Smiley Smile
ReleasedSeptember 18, 1967 (1967-09-18)
GenrePsychedelic rock, doo-wop, avant-garde
Songwriter(s)Brian Wilson
Producer(s)The Beach Boys
Audio sample
Single by The Beach Boys
from the album The Smile Sessions
ReleasedJune 15, 2011 (2011-06-15)
RecordedAugust 1966–April 1967
GenreChamber pop[1]
Songwriter(s)Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks
Producer(s)Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Good Vibrations"
"Cabin Essence" / "Wonderful"
"That's Why God Made the Radio"
Audio sample

"Wonderful" is a song written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for American rock band The Beach Boys. It was released on their 1967 album Smiley Smile, but was attempted earlier for the Smile sessions. Wilson claims that he and Parks wrote the song along with "Heroes and Villains" "Cabin Essence" and "Surf's Up" in a giant sandbox with a piano in it that Wilson had moved into his living room.[need quotation to verify] When released on Smiley Smile, Parks' credit was omitted.[1]

The song has since been covered by a variety of artists.


The song's title derives from a pet name Brian Wilson had for his wife Marilyn.[1] It is the only Smile composition to refer to God by name.[1] Co-writer Van Dyke Parks commented,

Musically, it's entirely different from anything else. and I thought that it was a place, an opportunity, to begin a love song. I remember Brian pressing me about the relationship between the mother and the father and the child. And this is the guy who wrote "When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)", the guy who is becoming a man. I really think that he was thinking about his own personal progression from childhood. Now I thought, once we had gotten "Heroes And Villains" done, we might have seen a boy/girl song emerge, other than "Wonderful". Honestly, I really thought we would do it, but I never found an opportunity to pursue that with the music I was given.[2]

Music historian Mark Dillon interprets the lyrics to be the story of a girl devoted to God and her parents who is thrown into emotional disarray after encountering a boy.[3] Biographer Andrew Hickey similarly describes the song as the story of a young woman and her steadfast embrace of adolescence through the loss of her own virginity.[4][page needed] He characterized the original version of the recording as "proto-psychedelic chamber pop".[1]

When "Wonderful" was remade for Smiley Smile, one verse was omitted from its lyrics, it being replaced by a 35-second interlude described as "a left turn into a hash den" by Dillon.[1] Containing the group's giggling and nonsense doo-wop chanting, Dillion believes the phrase "don't think you're God" can be heard in the mass of voices.[1] He also suggested that the interlude represents the female protagonist's sexual awakening.[1]


Various alternates takes and mixes of the song appear on the compilations Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys and The Smile Sessions.

In the early 1970s, it was a common part of Beach Boys setlists in medley with The Flames' "Don't Worry Bill". One performance was released in 1998 for the Beach Boys' Endless Harmony Soundtrack. Another performance dated from 1993 was released in 2013 for Made in California.


Author Andrew Hickey wrote of the song, "If there was any justice in the world, this song would now be regarded as every bit the classic that "God Only Knows" is, as on every level that matters – musical and lyrical sophistication, beauty, the compassion that pours out of every syllable of the song – this is the superior of that song and almost every other I've heard."[4][page needed] In 2011 Mike Love commended Parks' "marvelous job" with the lyrics and has described the piece as beautiful and sensitive, possessing ability to move listeners to tears.[5] He told Goldmine magazine "‘Wonderful’ is an amazing, amazing piece of work. Holy shit! Van Dyke and Brian did a great collaboration on that one. It’s a really beautiful song. That’s probably my favorite thing from the Smile project.”[6] Power pop musician Matthew Sweet praised the Smile version for its baroque feel, whereas "it gets a little more trivialized on Smiley Smile".[1]


Smiley Smile
The Smile Sessions

Brian Wilson versions[edit]

Brian Wilson Wonderful.jpg
Single by Brian Wilson
from the album Brian Wilson Presents Smile
B-side"Wind Chimes"
ReleasedSeptember 20, 2004
Format7" single
LabelNonesuch Records
Songwriter(s)Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks
Producer(s)Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson singles chronology
"Your Imagination"
"Good Vibrations"

As a solo artist, Brian Wilson revisited the song in 1995 for his I Just Wasn't Made For These Times album, and then again for Brian Wilson Presents Smile in 2004. The latter version was released as a limited 7" single backed with "Wind Chimes" totaling 5,000 copies on blue, green, and yellow vinyl.[citation needed] In the 2004 version, "Wonderful" is linked thematically with the second suite which also included "Child Is Father of the Man" and "Surf's Up".[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dillon 2012.
  2. ^ Priore 2005, p. 71.
  3. ^ Dillon 2012, p. 149.
  4. ^ a b Hickey 2011.
  5. ^ "The Beach Boys Smile". Mojo Magazine. June 2011.
  6. ^ Beard, David (January 4, 2012). "Discover the story behind The Beach Boys' 'SMiLE'". www.goldminemag.com/. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Leaf, David (1990). Smiley Smile/Wild Honey (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.