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Melinda Kae Wilson, Brian Wilson’s wife of 28 years, has died. “Melinda was more than my wife. She was my savior,” the Beach Boys co-founder said in a statement. “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.” A cause of death has not been announced. Wilson was 77 years old.
Melinda Kae Ledbetter was born in Colorado in 1946 and raised in California. She met Brian Wilson in 1986 while working as a used-Cadillac saleswoman in Santa Monica. After Wilson bought what Ledbetter has called “an ugly brown car,” the two met again for a date that was organized by Eugene Landy, the disgraced psychologist who controlled nearly all aspects of Wilson’s life. “His life was pretty choreographed,” Melinda Wilson told Rolling Stone in 1999. “But I just thought Brian was, like, the sweetest guy I had ever met. I thought, ‘I gotta go see what this is all about.’”
Elizabeth Banks portrayed Melinda Wilson in the film Love & Mercy, which showed how she helped her husband recover from mental illness despite Landy’s influence. Ledbetter and Wilson dated for three years, and she has said that Landy cut their relationship short. Around that time, in 1989, Landy had his psychologist’s license revoked, and, two years later, a court ordered the former doctor out of Wilson’s life. In 1992, Ledbetter and Wilson reconnected, and they got married in February 1995. During their 28-year marriage, the Wilsons adopted five children.
In a joint statement, the children said Melinda Wilson “was not only a model, our fathers 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 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.”