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All About Brian Wilson and His Late Wife Melinda's Decades-Long Love Story

The Beach Boys founding member Brian Wilson and former model Melinda Ledbetter Wilson were married from 1995 until her death in January 2024

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Melinda Ledbetter Wilson and Brian Wilson in 2015.
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Melinda Ledbetter Wilson and Brian Wilson in 2015.

Brian Wilson and his late wife, Melinda Ledbetter Wilson, found love in the most interesting place: at the car dealership.

The couple first met when Melinda, a former model, sold him a car in the 1980s. Although their relationship didn't get off to an easy start, they eventually wed in 1995 and remained married for nearly 30 years until Melinda's death on Jan. 30, 2024.

The Beach Boys founder announced the death of his "beloved wife" on Instagram, writing, “Melinda was more than my wife. She was my savior. She gave me the emotional security I needed to have a career."

He continued, "She encouraged me to make the music that was closest to my heart. She was my anchor. She was everything for us. Please say a prayer for her. Love and Mercy Brian.”

Related: Beach Boys' Brian Wilson Announces Death of 'Savior' Wife Melinda: 'She Was My Anchor'

During their nearly three decades of marriage, Brian and Melinda adopted five children together: Dakota Rose, Daria Rose, Delanie Rose, Dylan and Dash. Brian also had two daughters, Carnie and Wendy, from his first marriage.

“I’ve never had a relationship with a girl like we have,” Brian told PEOPLE of Melinda in 1998. “She’s a partner who’s also a best friend.”

From their first encounter at a Cadillac dealership to Brian's touching tribute to Melinda after her death, here's a look back at the couple's decades-long love story.

They met while Melinda was working as a saleswoman in 1986

Kevin Winter/Getty Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter Wilson in 2005.
Kevin Winter/Getty Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter Wilson in 2005.

When Brian first met Melinda, she sold him a car — a brown Cadillac Seville, to be exact. It was the first car she showed him.

"I remember meeting her at her dealership, Cadillac, and I said, 'God, she's a pretty girl. That's a pretty girl,'" Brian told ABC News in 2015. "I just said to myself, 'God, I think I'll see her again sometime.' "

Speaking of her first thoughts on Brian, Melinda told the outlet she liked his personality.

"That's what attracted me to him," Melinda said. "He was so nice."

In a 2004 interview with Larry King, Melinda said that she knew who Brian was, but didn't realize the important role he played in the Beach Boys. "I knew of the Beach Boys, but I really didn't know that Brian was the genius behind the Beach Boys," she said.

"I knew I always thought Dennis was cute," Melinda laughed, referencing Brian's late brother and bandmate.

They dated on and off before rekindling their relationship in 1992

KMazur/WireImage Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter Wilson in 2002.
KMazur/WireImage Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter Wilson in 2002.

Melinda and Brian started dating in 1986. However, their budding romance was cut short due to Brian's complicated relationship with his therapist and legal guardian, Dr. Eugene Landy.

According to Melinda, after three years of dating, Landy "decided [they] were getting too close." Speaking to King in 2004, Melinda said that over time, Landy became captive of Brian.

"I wasn't allowed to call my family or friends at all, for nine years," Brian added.

In 1991, Brian's brother, mother and daughters sued Landy over the "undue influence" he had over the musician's life and the following year, a court order barred Landy from contacting Brian.

It was around this time that Brian and Melinda rekindled their romance. "I was driving down Pico Boulevard one day and I nearly ran over him," Melinda told Rolling Stone of their chance encounter.

They got married in 1995

David Keeler/Getty Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter Wilson on their wedding day in 1995.
David Keeler/Getty Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter Wilson on their wedding day in 1995.

After reconnecting in 1992, Melinda and Brian wed in California on Feb. 6, 1995.

"The vibrations in that chapel were so wonderful," Brian said after the ceremony, referencing his Beach Boys hit song "Good Vibrations."

Brian's daughters Carnie and Wendy performed one of their dad's most iconic songs, "God Only Knows." The song was "our special gift to him," said Carnie, adding, "It means so much to see Dad happy."

Brian and Melinda celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary in 2023, marking the occasion with a post on Brian's professional Instagram.

Melinda served as Brian's manager

Kevork Djansezian/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter Wilson in 2016.
Kevork Djansezian/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter Wilson in 2016.

In 1999, Melinda became Brian's manager, taking charge of all his bookings.

Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1999, Melinda said the managerial job was "basically negotiating, and that's what I did every single day when I sold cars."

Before Melinda took the managerial reins, Landy was Brian's manager — and Melinda told Rolling Stone his control over the Beach Boys singer reached a parental level.

"There was a total parallel between Murry and Landy," Melinda said, referencing Brian's dad and former manager of the Beach Boys, Murry.

Related: The Members of the Beach Boys: Where Are They Now?

They adopted five children together

Todd Williamson/Getty Melinda Ledbetter Wilson and Brian Wilson with their children.
Todd Williamson/Getty Melinda Ledbetter Wilson and Brian Wilson with their children.

Brian and Melinda adopted five children during their 28 years of marriage: Dylan, Dash, Daria, Delanie and Dakota. Brian also previously welcomed two daughters, Carnie and Wendy, with his first wife, Marilyn.

"About a year into our marriage, we decided we wanted children, and we didn't get married til I was 48," Melinda explained in her 2004 with King. "We decided we would adopt."

"I was thrilled to be able to do it," Brian added.

Their love story was immortalized in the 2015 film Love & Mercy

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Melinda Ledbetter Wilson and Elizabeth Banks in 2015.
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Melinda Ledbetter Wilson and Elizabeth Banks in 2015.

In 2015, Elizabeth Banks and John Cusack teamed up to portray Melinda and Brian on the big screen. The biopic, Love & Mercy, recreated the couple's introduction at the Cadillac dealership. It also documented Brian's struggles with mental health and the complicated relationship with his overbearing psychiatrist and legal guardian, Landy, played by Paul Giamatti.

"I didn't know how tough it would be," Melinda told ABC News of seeing the film for the first time. "I think I was more nervous than him when I took him to see it, and after, I said, 'So what did you think?' And he goes, 'Oh, it was really a lot worse in real life.' "

Banks spoke to Melinda while she was preparing to play her in the movie.

"She said to me, 'Music is his first love. Nothing can replace it. It's his being, it's his essence, it's his everything, So I'm settling for second, but it's a pretty good — it's a pretty good second,' " Banks said of her conversation with Melinda to ABC News.

"Not many people understand how hard it was for Brian then, because not many people were around," Melinda told USA Today in 2015. "It was mind-boggling. But the goal in doing the film was to be honest," she continued.

Brian called Melinda his "savior"

<p>Lester Cohen/WireImage</p> Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter in 2010.

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter in 2010.

When Melinda died on Jan. 30, 2024, at 77 years old, Brian shared a heartfelt tribute to her on Instagram. In the post, which featured two throwback photos of Melinda and the couple, Brian called his late wife his "savior."

"Our five children and I are just in tears. We are lost," Brian wrote. "Melinda was more than my wife. She was my savior. She gave me the emotional security I needed to have a career. She encouraged me to make the music that was closest to my heart. She was my anchor. She was everything for us."

Brian and Melinda's children also left a message for their mother in the same caption, writing, “She was a force of nature and one of the strongest women you could come by. She was not only a model, our father’s savior, and a mother, she was a woman empowered by her spirit with a mission to better everyone she touched."

The message continued, "We will miss her but cherish everything she has taught us. How to take care of the person next to you with out expecting anything in return, how to find beauty in the darkest of places, and how to live life as your truest self with honesty and pride. We love you mom. Give Grandma Rose and Pa our love.”

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