A 35-year journey -- from "wrong element" to "artistic achievement"

Each year, PBS' 4th-of-July concert offers a vibrant mixture of music, firewoks and fun. This year, it also adds something else -- a neat little postscript to a controversy that began 35 years ago. Hee's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Some noisy
controversies get settled in a few hours. Others ...

Well, there was the
whole thing with the Beach Boys and July 4; that one gets a neat
postscript Wednesday on PBS. “It's been a while in coming, hasn't
it?” Mike Love said with a laugh.

It's been 35 years
since Secretary of the Interior James K. Watt announced that the
Beach Boys were not welcome at the Fourth concert on the Capitol
Lawn. They “attracted the wrong element,” he said, and the
Capitol didn't want to “encourage drug abuse and alcoholism, as was
done in years past.”

Much of that was
resolved quickly. “I don't think James Watt's musical tastes
reflected the nation,” Love said. And didn't reflect the White
House; Ronald Reagan, Watt's boss, promptly intervened.

Now comes an extra
touch Wednesday, with the National Artistic Achievement Award. “It
shows how beloved the Beach Boys music has become,” said Love, a
key part of the group for all of its 57 years.

That will be during
PBS' “Capitol Fourth” concert, which will include pop, rock,
country and beyond.

It's sort of what
Love pushed a year after the Watt controversy, when he helped round
up an all-star show. “My idea was: 'It's July 4th; let's
make it an American celebration.'”

That plan continues.
Wednesday's show starts with gospel's Kyla Jade (from “The Voice”)
doing the National Anthem. It has another gospel star (CeCe Winans),
plus people from pop (Pentatonix, Temptations, Andy Grammer, Beach
Boys) and country (Luke Combs, Lauren Alaina).

And it has Broadway,
mixed with classical. Renee Fleming will do her “Carousel” solo
... Chita Rivera will introduce a Leonard Bernstein tribute, with
Joshua Bell doing “Tonight” from “West Side Story” -- which
Rivera starred in, 61 years ago ... And Jimmy Buffett joins his
“Escape to Margaritaville” cast.

Love also hopes
Buffett will join the Beach Boys for “Kokomo.” Those two musical
forces both represent sunny, coastal music ... albeit from coasts
3,000 miles apart.

He also feels a link
with another group: “The Pentatonix have had enormous success”
with vocal harmonies, he said. That was the Beach Boys' starting
point. “Really what got us together was doing these beautiful and
creative harmonies.”

They were the
province of Brian Wilson, singing with his younger brothers, Dennis
and Carl, plus their cousin Love (his mother and their father were
siblings) and a friend, Al Jardine. Bruce Johnston joined in 1965, in
time for “California Girls”; at 74, he's one of only two
old-timers in the group.

The other is Love,
77, who wrote many of the early lyrics, about the life they knew. “We
all lived just a few miles from the beach,” he said. “We sang
about the sun and the cars we wanted to drive.”

Ironically, many of
the cars he's owned have been British – a 1948 MG, a '39 Rolls,
some Jaguars. “I've also had my fair share of Corvettes,” he adds

Individually, the
Beach Boys did have problems with drugs and alcohol. Their music,
however, was sunny. “Beach Boys music represents joy of life,”
Carl Wilson said, the day after Watt's comments.

Other agreed, Brian
Wilson recalled in “I Am Brian Wilson” (2016, Da Capo): “Nancy
Reagan said that if we attracted the wrong element, then she was the
wrong element, because she was a huge fan.”

The group was
invited to the White House and a year later headlined the Fourth
show, drawing a standing ovation – before the first song – from a
crowd officially listed at 565,000.

Sometimes “publicity
– the good kind – just falls from the heavens,” Love wrote in
“Good Vibrations” (Blue Rider Press, 2016). “That's what
happened in 1983. We hadn't had a hit song in seven years.”

And suddenly, people
were talking about the Beach Boys, past and present. That has
continued, he said. “We did 185 performances last year; we did a
couple months all over Europe.”

Now they'll be back
on the Capitol Lawn. John Stamos, who hosts (and is “a great
drummer,” Love adds) will present the award. The previous winners
were Stevie Wonder, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Reba McEntire, Josh
Groban and John Williams ... none of them attracting the wrong


-- “A Capitol
Fourth,” 8 p.m. Wednesday, PBS, rerunning at 9:30. From the Capitol
lawn, includes Beach Boys, Pentatonix, Temptations, Jimmy Buffett,
Andy Grammer, CeCe Winans, Kyla Jade, Renee Fleming, Luke Combs,
Lauren Alaina, Josh Bell, John Stamos, plus National Orchestra and

-- Also, NBC will be
in New York from 8-10 p.m., with highlights from 10-11. That includes
Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum, Sheryl Crow, Charlie Puth, Hailee
Steinfeld and fireworks.

-- In a late
addition, Hallmark will be on the White House lawn, from 8-9:30 p.m.
That includes country's Sara Evans, pianist Lola Astanova, military
bands and two “American Idol” alumni, Jonny Brenns and Jax.