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Beach Boys still look at sunny side of life

Love and Johnston aim to carry on the surf-music tradition of the legendary group on their stop in Costa Mesa.

December 03, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • John Cowsill, Christian Love, Bruce Johnston, Randell Kirsch, Mike Love, Scott Totten and Tim Bonhomme of the Beach Boys.
John Cowsill, Christian Love, Bruce Johnston, Randell… (handout, Daily…)

The Beach Boys' song "The Warmth of the Sun" has nothing to do with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The lyrics, like so many of the group's classics, deal with the simple theme of a romance gone awry.

Nevertheless, through a coincidence, that mournful ballad has been linked for half a century with one of America's most infamous days. And singer Mike Love, who cowrote the song with his cousin Brian Wilson, had it on his mind last month when America observed the 50th anniversary of Nov. 22, 1963.

In the pre-dawn hours that day, Love and Wilson had sat up finishing "The Warmth of the Sun," which paints a lyrical portrait of a man clinging to the memory of a woman who deserted him ("I dream of her arms, and though they're not real / just like she's still there is the way that I feel"). Not long after, the songwriters woke to the news that had America riveted to the television for days after.

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"Needless to say, when we recorded that song about a month after that happened, it was charged with a lot of extra emotion," said Love, who recently contributed a Huffington Post essay about his memories of Kennedy's death. "It's beautiful. It's a beautiful song, beautiful harmonies, great melody, and the lyrics are very sad, but sweet in a way."

Did Love listen to the song again on Nov. 22 this year?

"Well, I hear it in my head all the time."

As pundits reflected on 1963 and the words "JFK" and "innocence" graced countless headlines, it felt only appropriate to hear from the coauthor of the songs that helped define a simpler time in America. And that time, however glossed by memory, may come alive again when Love's Beach Boys visit Costa Mesa this week.

On Dec. 7, for the first time, the band will perform at the Segerstrom Center of the Arts. In addition to delving into Christmas tunes and Top 40 hits, Love plans to play "The Warmth of the Sun" in a medley with "God Only Knows," another classic ballad that ponders life without a loved one.

"I think it'll be a really nice transition and a very emotional period of our show," Love said.

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The beach and the bedroom

"Innocence." Like so many others, Love invoked that word in his Kennedy remembrance piece. Still, the 72-year-old takes that concept with a grain of salt.

"You know, we say it was an innocent time, but still, there were civil rights issues," he said. "There were the Vietnam issues. So it wasn't all so innocent. I mean, maybe we were innocent, we as individuals, growing up at that time.

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