“My heart is broken. Melinda, my beloved wife of 28 years, passed away this morning,” Wilson wrote to X (formerly Twitter). “Our five children and I are just in tears. We are lost. Melinda was more than my wife. She was my savior. She gave me the emotional security I needed to have a career.”
Melinda Ledbetter met Wilson in 1986 while she was working at a car dealership. At the time, the Beach Boys star was suffering through one of the most difficult stages of his life. Wilson had gone through years of drug rehabilitation and was under 24-hour psychiatric care due to ongoing mental health issues.
It was Melinda who helped turn Wilson’s life around. The two fell in love and were married in 1995. She soon became his manager.
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“I was in the right place at the right time to help him. It’s like the concept that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t get him to drink,” she explained to the Washington Post. “What he’s missed out on is an environment where he feels safe. He didn’t have that before with his family, his old band, his doctor, his first wife. But he finally has that.”
With Melinda’s encouragement, Wilson returned to music, most notably completing his long-shelved Smile album (under the title Brian Wilson Presents Smile) in 2004.
Some outsiders had scrutinized Melinda’s role in Wilson’s life, suggesting she became too forceful in getting the musician back to touring. Still, in his tribute following her death, the rocker made clear the massive impact his wife had on his career.
“She encouraged me to make the music that was closest to my heart,” he wrote. “She was my anchor. She was everything for us.”
See the Most Played Country Song from the Year You Were Born
Who had the most played country song during the year you were born? This list is a fascinating time capsule of prevalent trends from every decade in American history. Scroll through to find your birth year and then click to listen. Some of these songs have been lost through the years, many of them for good reason!
Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes