Pop singing trio
Pop trio Wilson Phillips has quickly found fame with the release of its first album in 1990. The self-titled effort has earned the group a smash hit with the single, “Hold On.” Wilson Phillips, with its name taken from the last names of its members—Chynna Phillips and sisters Carnie and Wendy Wilson—specializes in harmony, and “soundfs] quite pleasant,” according to People critic Ralph Novak.
As many reviewers and reporters have noted, the members of Wilson Phillips have music in their blood. Phillips is the daughter of John and Michelle Phillips, veterans of the folk group the Mamas and the Papas, and the Wilson sisters are the daughters of Beach Boy member Brian Wilson. Though all three young women were very much exposed to music during their childhood, and Carnie and Wendy made appearences on some of their father’s recordings, none was really that interested in the art except for enjoying the music of such groups as Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. During their adolescences, Chynna and Carnie were more interested in acting, and Wendy wanted to be a writer and a model.
But in 1986, after such examples as Band Aid, Farm Aid, and U.S.A. for Africa, Phillips—a longtime friend of the young Wilsons—thought it would be a good idea to get some children of famous musicians together to make a record for charity. Though Moon Zappa, daughter of Frank Zappa, and actress lone Skye, daughter of 1960s folk singer Donovan, were considered for the project, it fell through.
Nevertheless, Chynna, Carnie, and Wendy were too pleased with the results of their own practice to abandon the idea of becoming recording artists. Wendy Wilson recalled for Rolling Stone’s David Wild: “Our three-part harmony just felt so natural. My sister naturally goes low, I naturally go high, and Chynna just fit right into the middle. And we realized that we didn’t want to do just one charity record. We wanted to form a group.” There was also talk of including the late Mannas and Papas member Cass Elliot’s daughter Owen, but as Phillips confided to Wild, “we decided it would be best just to have three.”
The young women soon announced their ambitions to producer Richard Perry, who worked with them for a few years to find the right sound for them. After they had enlisted the help of songwriter Glen Ballard, whose experience included helping Michael Jackson write “Man in the Mirror,” the trio was overwhelmed with offers from record companies. Eventually they signed with song publisher Charles Koppelman’s fledgling SBK label.
The singers tossed many different possible group names around, and, according to Wild, “considered calling themselves Leda and titling their first album Chasing Swans,” but, of course, settled on Wilson Phillips. They do not believe, however, that their famous parents’ names have helped them with their fans. “The funny thing,” Phillips explained to Wild, “is that most kids today have no idea what those names mean. You ask a kid on the street and they may know some of the songs and maybe they’ve heard of the Beach Boys. But they don’t know who Brian Wilson or John Phillips are. If you say Phillips to a kid today, they’d think ‘screwdriver’ or ‘milk of magnesia.’”
Despite some negative reviews, Wilson Phillips has sold well and “Hold On” has received much airplay both from radio and music video stations. While Novak had some criticisms for the young women, he conceded that “they have lots of time to develop, and this album suggests they have the talent” to do so, and he praised the songs “A Reason to Believe,” “Next to You,” and “Eyes Like Twins.” SBK head Koppelman concluded for Wild: “People should hear them. Their sound, their perspective on life at twenty years old, their ideas, their freshness is just a smile. And I think we’re all ready for a smile.”
Band members are Chynna Phillips, (vocalist; born c. 1968; daughter of John and Michelle Phillips); Carnie Wilson (vocalist; born c. 1969; daughter of Brian and Marilyn Wilson); Wendy Wilson (vocalist; born c. 1970; also daughter of Brian and Marilyn Wilson).
Recording artists and concert performers, 1990—.
Addresses: Record company —SBK Records, 1750 N. Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028.
Wilson Phillips (includes “Hold On,” “A Reason to Believe,” “Next to You,” and “Eyes Like Twins”), SBK Records, 1990.
People, May 7, 1990; June 4, 1990.
Rolling Stone, May 17, 1990.
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