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A crucial member of “America’s band”

MUSIC | Jeffrey Foskett brought stability to the Beach Boys


Jeffrey Foskett Christophe Gateau / Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP

A crucial member of “America’s band”
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Armchair musicologists like to argue about who deserves the title the “fifth Beatle.” But there’s no dispute when it comes to the “fifth Beach Boy.” (Actually, the sixth, seventh, or eighth would be more accurate depending on how you count, but you get the point.)

Jeffrey Foskett, an enormously ­talented singer and guitarist who died in December after a five-year struggle with anaplastic thyroid cancer, joined the Beach Boys touring group in 1981—officially, to replace Carl Wilson, who had left to go solo; unofficially, to bring sobriety and musical stability to an outfit that had become indifferent to both.

A Christian since the age of 14, when a co-worker at a YMCA camp led him to Christ, Foskett was temperamentally well suited to the task.

The stories of how he ingratiated himself to “America’s band” constitute a primer in self-advocacy. In 1976, he celebrated his 20th birthday by knocking on Brian Wilson’s door and receiving a warm welcome. Five years later, he convinced Mike Love to hear his cover band and found himself invited to tour with Love several days later. His professionalism, musicianship, and soaring voice made him a keeper.

About that voice: It blended Carl Wilson and young Brian so seamlessly that it’s a wonder no one ever demanded a DNA test. In 1985, Foskett sang (uncredited) lead and background all over Papa Doo Run Run’s Beach Boys tribute album California Project. And beginning in 1996, he recorded and released a series of remarkable solo albums on his own New West label. That they were only available in Japan made him surf-rock/sunshine-pop’s best-kept secret.

The continental divide narrowed in 2004. Not only did Foskett play a crucial role that year in the completion of Brian Wilson’s late-career masterpiece Smile, but he also got his first stateside release with the 14-track compilation Stars in the Sand on the Pop Collective, a label run, incidentally, by the then federal prosecutor and now WORLD reporter Steve West.

“He was a great guy to work with,” West told me. “I told him that we were looking for artists to sign, and he said he might have some ideas. But he also said that he might be interested. That was a surprise.”

By the time the Beach Boys 50th anniversary tour became a reality in 2012, the importance of Foskett in making that potentially fraught enterprise happen and in making those shows special elevated his profile. His final album, 2019’s Voices—which, appropriately enough, featured radiant renditions of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Warmth of the Sun,” and “Good Vibrations”—was released by BMG.

“God gave me such a beautiful voice,” Foskett told Billboard at the time, “and I really did use it to honor him and to sing my best at every single performance.”

No one who heard it would’ve ever thought otherwise. Requiescat in pace.


Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.

@ArsenioOrteza

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