Melinda Wilson, who helped emotionally rescue and resurrect the career of her husband and “Beach Boys” musician Brian Wilson, died at home in Beverly Hills on Tuesday morning. She was 77.
“Melinda was more than my wife. She was my savior,” Wilson said of his wife of 28 years in a statement posted on his website and social media. “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. Please say a prayer for her.”
A spokesperson for Wilson, Jean Sievers, said the cause of death was unknown. An additional unsigned statement from her children said that she died peacefully at home.
“She was a force of nature and one of the strongest women you could come by,” the children’s statement said. “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. We will miss her but cherish everything she has taught us. How to take care of the person next to you without 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.”
Melinda Kay Ledbetter was born Oct. 3, 1946, in Pueblo, Colo., to Rosemary and Leonard Ledbetter, and was raised in Whittier, where she attended Whittier College, according to Sievers and “The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, and the Southern California Experience,” a 1994 book by Timothy White.
“After a 16-year career as a commercial model for such designers as Bob Mackie and Anne Klein, Melinda had become a top sales representative for a local Cadillac dealership, meeting Brian when she sold him a gold Seville,” White’s book said.
“I sold him a car in like three seconds,” Melinda later told The Times. “I said, ‘Don’t you want to look at another color?’ It was the ugliest brown car you’ve ever seen in your life. And he goes, ‘No, that’s the one I want.’ ”
The pair dated on and off from 1986 to 1989, ending Wilson’s “long span of loneliness” since his divorce from Marilyn Wilson in the 1970s; the pair married at the Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes on Feb. 6, 1995, according to White’s book, after the then-reclusive Brian Wilson had escaped the controversial treatment of psychologist Eugene Landy, who had overseen the pair’s courtship.
“I regained my life when the Dr. Landy program was terminated,” Wilson told The Times in 1998. “She [Melinda] helped me get back into the swing of things. I started dealing with society and becoming a part of it again.” Added Melinda Wilson: “When we got married, we were getting sued by eight people [and most have] gone away. I’ve been dealing with it, and [Brian’s] been able to concentrate on his music again.”
Melinda Wilson was depicted by actor Elizabeth Banks in Bill Pohlad’s 2015 Wilson biopic, “Love & Mercy.”
Melinda Wilson is survived by husband Brian Wilson; her children Daria, Delanie, Dylan, Dash and Dakota Wilson; and nephew Patrick Ledbetter, Sievers said.