In the 1960s, Love collaborated with Wilson and was a lyricist on singles including "Fun, Fun, Fun" (1964) and "California Girls" (1965). During this period, his lyrics primarily reflected the youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance, which helped fashion pop culture's perception of the "California Dream". Starting in 1968, Love became a teacher of Transcendental Meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The experience influenced his lyrics to take on themes of astrology, meditation, politics and ecology. Following this, Love's lyrical direction shifted to attempt to recapture the band's earlier, lighthearted sound. In the late 1970s, Love began working on solo albums, releasing his first and only in 1981: Looking Back with Love. In 1988, he, along with the other founding members of the Beach Boys, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The same year, the song, "Kokomo", co-written by Love, reached number one in the United States and was nominated for a Grammy.
In 1998, following the death of cousin Carl Wilson, Love and longtime Beach Boy Bruce Johnston were given an exclusive license to tour under the name the Beach Boys. The other surviving Beach Boys, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, embarked on solo endeavors. In 2011, the group reunited to produce a new album and embark on a tour for their 50th anniversary. Following the 50th anniversary reunion shows, Love resumed touring only with Johnston.
Love's mother, Emily (known as "Glee") Wilson, was the sister of Mary and Murry Wilson, a family resident in Los Angeles since the early 1920s. Glee married Edward Milton Love, the son of the founder of the Love Sheet Metal Company, in 1938. Michael Edward, the first of six children, was born in the Baldwin Hills district of Los Angeles, in 1941; thereafter the family moved to the upmarket View Park area. Mike attended Dorsey High School and graduated in 1959. Unsure of a career direction, he pumped gas and briefly joined his father's company, whose fortunes dramatically declined in the late 1950s. Both Milt and Glee Love were active in sports, and Glee had a distinct interest in painting and the arts. Like her brother, Murry, however, she was also strong-willed and, according to her husband, a dominant personality. The family was close-knit and regularly socialized with Murry and Audree Wilson and their sons. Murry Wilson was a part-time songwriter.
Mike Love often sang at family get-togethers at his cousins, the Wilsons', home in nearby Hawthorne, especially at Christmas. It was here, under the vocal harmony guidance of Brian Wilson, that the Beach Boys sound was established, predominantly influenced by Brian's devotion to the Four Freshmen's arrangements. Musical accompaniment during this formative phase was solely Brian's self-taught piano, but this was quickly expanded by the guitar contributions of Brian's college friend Al Jardine (whose fundamental interest was folk music) and Carl Wilson (whose idol was Chuck Berry). With the failure of Love Sheet Metal, the family was forced to move to a modest two-bedroom house in Inglewood, closer to the Wilsons.
Love played rudimentary saxophone in the first years of the fledgling garage band that evolved from the Pendletones to the Beach Boys. He also established himself, along with neighbor Gary Usher, local DJ Roger Christian, and others, as a collaborator with Brian Wilson in the band's original compositions. As the Beach Boys' career developed, all members contributed lead vocals to hit songs; but Love remained the central vocal focus on songs like "Do It Again". As a writer, Love's lyrical growth is evident from "The Warmth of the Sun", a song written on November 22, 1963, partly in response to the assassination of President John F Kennedy.
Love has been reported as resisting Brian Wilson's shift in songwriting style during the Pet Sounds and Smile sessions. Love has repeatedly dismissed the claims as hyperbole, though he has admitted that he refused to sing certain lines in Pet Sounds and had reservations about Van Dyke Parks' lyrics for the Beach Boys. According to Erik Hedegaard of Rolling Stone, Love is considered "one of the biggest assholes in the history of rock & roll" because of these allegations.
During an argument in December 1966 during the recording of the song "Cabin Essence", Love asked Parks to explain the meaning of the line, "Over and over the crow cries uncover the cornfields"; Parks demurred, walking out of the recording session. Though Parks continued to work on the project until March 1967, it has been hypothesized that his partnership with Wilson ended in part because of Love's reservations. Love has since stated that he appreciates Parks' "brilliant" lyricism on an artistic level, though he had feared the lyrics were too abstract for a relatable Beach Boys record. In a letter to UK music magazine Mojo, Parks described Love's views as historical revisionism, and stated his belief that Love's hostility to Smile was the "deciding factor" in the album's postponement.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as Brian Wilson's weight, health, and mental stability fluctuated wildly, Mike Love continued to tour, effectively leading the Beach Boys on stage, with Carl Wilson as de facto musical director of the band. Love's songs became increasingly solo compositions (words and music) such as "Big Sur" (1973), "Everyone's in Love With You" (1976) and "Sumahama" (1978).
In 1988, the Beach Boys had a US number 1 hit with "Kokomo", the only number 1 the band achieved without Brian Wilson's involvement. Love (along with "Kokomo" co-writers Scott McKenzie, Terry Melcher, and John Phillips) was nominated for a Golden Globe Award (1988) in the Original Song category, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Kokomo".
Also in 1988, Love was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the other founding members of the Beach Boys. At the induction ceremony Love delivered a hostile speech, criticizing, among others, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney. When asked in 2016 if he regretted anything about the night, Love said "Yeah, I regret that I didn't meditate [earlier that day]."
In 1976–77, Love and partners Ron Altbach and jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd created the short-lived Love Songs Records. This was to be the vehicle for releasing Love's solo records along with the band Celebration and other projects. The company had its own recording studio and publishing facility at Loves's residence in Santa Barbara Calif.
In the mid-1970s he fronted the band Celebration, which achieved the top 30 hit single Almost Summer (co-written with Brian Wilson and Jardine).
In the late 1970s Love recorded two unreleased solo albums, First Love and Country Love. Love's first and only official-release solo album, Looking Back with Love (1981), included versions of pop standards like Neil Sedaka's "Calendar Girl" as well as a self-penned number, "Paradise Found".
Love worked with Dean Torrence in the early 1980s on singles and on the compilation Rock 'n' Roll City.
In 1992, Love sued Brian for defamation regarding claims made in the 1991 memoir Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story. The case was settled out of court by publisher HarperCollins, who awarded Love $1.5 million. It was the first of numerous lawsuits that Love would file against Brian. Two years later, Love won a legal proceeding to establish what he considered to be proper authorship credit for many of the Beach Boys songs he co-wrote. Love claimed that Murry Wilson had avoided crediting him with his early lyrical contributions to Brian's songs, denying Love accrued royalties.
After the death of Carl Wilson in 1998, Love continued to tour with the Beach Boys, along with Bruce Johnston and a supporting band of new musicians, occasionally including actor John Stamos. He leased exclusive rights to tour under the Beach Boys name in a boardroom settlement with Brother Records, the Beach Boys' company. In 1998, Love and his closest ally in the Beach Boys, Bruce Johnston, recorded the album Symphonic Sounds: Music of the Beach Boys with London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, London. Featured on the disc were newly arranged versions of songs like Johnston's "Disney Girls (1957)" and "Darlin'" featuring Matt Jardine.
Love contributed one track to the 2003 Bruce Springsteen tribute CD (singing "Hungry Heart"), and also lent his voice to a Bruce Johnston–produced album for the Kings Singers. He also re-recorded a number of classic Beach Boys hits, released on the collections Catch a Wave, Salute NASCAR, and Summertime Cruisin'. In 2003 Love announced plans for a new solo album, variously reported as Unleash The Love and Mike Love, Not War (not to be confused with the Beach Boys bootleg of the same name). Two conspicuous tracks off the work-in-progress are "Cool Head, Warm Heart", which appeared on an official Beach Boys–related collection, and "Pisces Brothers", a reminiscence of his time in India with George Harrison.
On November 3, 2005 Love sued Brian Wilson and the Mail On Sunday newspaper because the Beach Boys' name and Love's image were used in a promotional CD that was given free with the paper to promote the 2004 Brian Wilson presents Smile release. Love argued that the unauthorized (by Brother Records Inc.) free CD resulted in loss of income for the band. The lawsuit was dismissed on May 16, 2007 on the grounds that it was without merit.
On December 16, 2011, it was announced that Love would reunite with Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks for a new Beach Boys album and 50th anniversary tour in 2012. The group appeared at the 2012 Grammy Awards on February 12, followed by a 50-date tour that began in Tucson, AZ in April. Love commented on working with Marks once again, stating, "David rocks. ... When he does those leads on "Surfin'," "Surfin' Safari" and "Fun, Fun, Fun" it's so authentic. He and Carl committed on playing guitar since they were ten years old and ... neighbors with each other from across the street in Hawthorne. He's a fantastic musician and a really fantastic guy. ... It's going to be really great to be with him."
On June 5, 2012, the Beach Boys' reunion album That's Why God Made the Radio was released. Eleven tracks were co-written by Brian Wilson (mostly with Joe Thomas). The Love-composed track "Daybreak Over the Ocean" features Love's children Christian and Hayleigh on backing vocals, augmented by Jeff Foskett and the remaining original Beach Boys. In September 2012, Love and Bruce Johnston announced via a press release that following the end of the reunion tour the Beach Boys would revert to the Love/Johnston lineup, without Wilson, Jardine or Marks, all of whom expressed surprise despite such dates having been noted in a late June issue of Rolling Stone. In the ensuing media fallout, it was widely reported that the three had been 'fired' by Love.
Love was awarded Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. His autobiography entitled Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy was published on September 13, 2016.
In writing many of the Beach Boys songs, Love drew inspiration from the lyrics of Chuck Berry along with Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who wrote many of the Everly Brothers' songs including "Devoted to You" and "All I Have to Do is Dream". He explained, "They were both the fun, descriptive pictorial vignettes as well as the more sweet, romantic and devotional lyrics. ... Even before that and more fundamental than that, I was always into poetry. I would read English literature or American literature and poets and poems. I would be really bad at math but I'd really be into language, for instance, Spanish or liberal arts, specifically ancient poetry like Chaucer."
Love has been married to Jacquelyne Piesen since 1994 and has eight children: two with Piesen and six from his four previous marriages. Love is a vegetarian who practices and teaches Transcendental Meditation, wears Indian Ayurveda rings and partakes in traditional Hindu ceremonies. He currently resides in the Lake Tahoe area.
In addition to being cousin to the Wilson brothers, Love is the brother of former NBA basketball player Stan Love and of Pink Martini harpist Maureen Love, and is the uncle of Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player Kevin Love.
Mike Love was among the first pop musicians to become involved in the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, through his meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Having commenced Transcendental Meditation studies in December 1967, he accompanied the Beatles, Donovan, Prudence Farrow, and Mia Farrow on their famous trip to the guru's ashram at Rishikesh in India in early 1968. The 1968 Beach Boys album Friends has some of the first Mike Love lyric compositions relating to his experiences in India and Transcendental Meditation, themes he continues to write about in his lyrics to the current day.
A photographed handshake between Love and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s led many to label Love as a political conservative, although he describes himself as a progressive.
Mike Love has been a longtime supporter of environmental causes and was among speakers at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and Earth Day 2000 on the Mall in Washington, DC. Love was instrumental in forming StarServe ("Students Taking Action and Responsibility to Serve") which enlisted high-profile celebrities to inspire America's youth to help serve their communities. He also created the Love Foundation, which supports national environmental and educational initiatives. Love personally donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina and helped the foundation raise an additional $250,000. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Lake Tahoe School in Incline Village, Nevada, and was responsible for raising over $1 million to benefit the school.
In 2010, Mike Love contributed to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's More Hope For The Holidays album with vocals on "Closing of the Year" as well as contributing his self-penned "Santa's Goin' To Kokomo". On the album he appears alongside Weezer, Brandi Carlile, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Proceeds benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He performed a benefit concert for the foundation for the Children of the Californias which raised one million dollars to support the expansion of three new surgical suites. During the 50th Reunion Tour Love alongside the Beach Boys partnered with Operation Smile to raise funds for those in need of cleft lip and palate repair surgeries. In May 2013, Love was recognised for his decades of investment in education and national service by being awarded City Year's "Seven Generations Award".1981: Looking Back with Love
1996: Catch a Wave
1998: Salute NASCAR (with Bruce Johnston and David Marks)
2001: Summertime Cruisin (with Bruce Johnston)
1967: "Gettin' Hungry" (with Brian Wilson)
1978: "Almost Summer" (with Celebration) - #28 Billboard Hot 100
1978: "It's Ok" (Celebration) Featuring Mike Love)
1981: "Looking Back With Love"
1981: "Runnin' Around The World"
1982: "Be My Baby"
1982: "Be True To Your Bud" (with Dean Torrence)
1982: "Da Doo Ron Ron"
1983: "Jingle Bell Rock" (with Dean Torrence)
2006: "Santa's Goin' To Kokomo"
2007: "Hungry Heart"
2015: "(You'll Never Be) Alone on Christmas Day"
2017: "Do It Again" (with Mark McGrath)