Don’t Worry Baby (1964)

Beach Boys

Written by Brian Wilson and Roger Christian
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Don't Worry Hollywood BowlThe Beach Boys’ 1964 masterpiece, “Don’t Worry Baby,” represents a quantum leap for the group and the beginning of what might be called the synthesis of “The Lost Dream World.”

Indeed, Brian Wilson, a much-lauded musical genius manages through his lyrical and musical mood-setting to catch the waves of the evolution of Southern California from a soft, idyllic paradise into a crowded urban forest, a change that came practically overnight. Psychologically and sociologically, it is a long way from the childhood lands of the Wilsons and associates to the twisted nightmare of the Manson family murders of Sharon Tate and others.

“Don’t Worry Baby” – original studio version

[The videos at left feature the studio version, a harder rocking live version and the vocals alone with instrumentation stripped out.]

Moreover, from “Don’t Worry Baby” we can sift and find the beginnings of Rock’s enduring power ballads. It contains all the elements: strong sentiment; grand vision; high emotions; ruminative musical interludes; and, in this specific case, celestial singing splashed with an abiding earnestness.

Well its been building up inside of me
For oh I don’t know how long
I don’t know why
But I keep thinking
Something’s bound to go wrong

“Don’t Worry Baby” operates simultaneously in the Lost Dream World and the ever-present heavy world of adolescent anxiety and despair. What more could a young man want his sweetheart to say to him than, “don’t worry, baby, everything will turn out alright”?

1963’s “Little Deuce Coupe,” flip side of “Surfer Girl

Don't worry street racinf magYes, today the realm of street racing along sunny, palm-tree-lined boulevards for “pink slips,” (the loser’s car registration, thank you) seems very far away. And yes, it was a long time ago when men did things and women “adored” them for those efforts. History makes very few apologies.

But what does any boy or girl, man or woman, want to hear most from their mate? They want to know someone’s got their back. A bottom-line proposition. “If you knew how much I loved you, baby, nothing could go wrong with you.”

Maybe that belief in the transformative power of romantic love has disappeared or grown so scarce it is like the great white buffalo of Native American Indian lore. It resonates among those who have glimpsed it or at least can sense it out there in the distance.

In “Don’t Worry Baby,” the voices of The Beach Boys are at peak form and the vocal arrangement is peerless. Only an airy, angel-food cake guitar break, rescued in the nick of time by a transition back into the thick, rich icing of the last verse, keeps the song from entering the hallowed halls of the greatest of great classic Rock songs of all time.

Yet, “Don’t Worry Baby” comes quietly to – and stays near – our hearts. Its honesty, integrity, and purity of spirit – if now antique – capture and keep us. The same sentiments that drive High Noon, Casablanca and other cinema classics drive “Don’t Worry Baby.”

Don't worry single coverThe track’s focus is the close mate to the flip side of the single it was released on: “I Get Around.”

Cars, girls, challenges that involve emerging masculinity. But “Don’t Worry Baby” has far deeper concerns – vulnerability, worry, possible defeat and humiliation – that so many songs of the era lack. It wasn’t all just “fun, fun, fun till daddy takes the T-Bird away.”

In The Beach Boys’ canon, it stands side by side with other introspective works that surfaced surprisingly early on in the group’s career. “In My Room” (1963); “The Warmth Of The Sun” (1964); and “When I Grow Up To Be A Man” (1965), come to mind. Of course, the underlying mood of The Lost Dream would be fully fleshed out in later work on albums like Pet Sounds, Surf’s Up and Sunflower.

“The Warmth Of The Sun” (also from 1964)

“Long Promised Road” (from the Surf’s Up Album,1971)

“Don’t Worry Baby” is the gold standard of Rock ballads, of car songs and of male introspection songs. It’s one that the surviving Beach Boys should be extremely proud of. It means a lot, even to people hearing it for the first time nowadays. Where eternal joy and eternal sadness intersect there is great art.

  • “Don’t Worry Baby” was composed by Brian Wilson as an “answer” to Phil Spector and The Ronettes’ supreme “Be My Baby.” Brian, in fact, offered it to Spector, who refused the gift. 
  • When Brian Wilson first heard the Ronettes’ song on the radio, he lamented that he could never match it. No one could, he thought. Wilson’s wife Marilyn assured him he would, saying, “Don’t worry, baby.”

Also by Beach Boys on

  • I Get AroundAn air of genius formed around Brian Wilson, whose devotion to precision is one of his many calling cards.
  • Fun Fun FunThe old T-Bird is cherry but needs a little more time in the family garage to be taken out on very special occasions.