Excerpt: 'Carnie Wilson'

I went out to the center of the stage all by myself, stepped up to the microphone, and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Beach Boys!"

Memories like this are so special because Dad didn't share himself with us that often. Most of the time he didn't really think about us. He was always busy at the piano, and once in a while we'd make him play something, and we'd sing it. But these moments were very scarce.

I've been making music of my own since I was 18 months old. We had a fantastic Hammond B-3 organ that my dad played now and then. Sometimes he'd put me on the bench next to him, and my little hands would go for it. I loved to watch him and be like him.

I started on the piano when I was in kindergarten, and Wendy and I took lessons for about ten years. We loved to perform for Mom and Dad, especially because it was the best way to get our father's attention. He'd sit back, close his eyes, and smile as he listened.

It was a rare chance for us to make a connection with him, and these were moments we cherished. There are only a few others, and even though they're little moments, they're all I have so they mean so much.

When I was ten, Dad taught me how to play "Rhapsody in Blue." He'd learned it by listening to a recording over and over until he got every note. He didn't read the music. He just played it on the piano every day. When he showed me how to do it, I felt like I tapped into something very close to him, and that was the coolest. Another time he taught me "California Girls" and "Sloop John B," and I was so happy to share this bond with him.

When I was 12 — this was a year after my parents were divorced — he came over one day to our new home in Encino. He sat down and said, "Play something for me. I love to hear you play."

So I played, and he sat back like he always does and closed his eyes. I could see how much it meant to him, and I felt so proud that somebody who knows music and just is music was so deeply affected by my playing. I think he enjoyed the way I played, but what he loved was that it was his daughter playing.

It was like, "Hey, this is my daughter, and I'm her dad. This is her talent, and some of it came from me. I may not have been the perfect father, but I gave her something beautiful that will last forever."

Music was our connection — our easiest connection — and it still is. We have painful connections, too. But music is our most natural. We can't explain it. It's just there.

Harmonizing came naturally to Wendy and me. Mom has the gift of harmony, too. I remember riding down Sunset Boulevard in her little brown Mercedes convertible, listening to Bob Seger or the Beach Boys and singing along. She'd teach me how to go below the melody for the low harmony, and Wendy would go for the high part. There's something magical about singing harmonies together, and when we'd make our voices blend just right, I'd get off on it so much. I dreamed of making music and having an acting career.

At Oakwood I started working in the drama department in the seventh grade. After years of subjects that didn't hold my interest, it was like coming home.

I'd done two national commercials when I was younger, and the feeling had been so positive. Okay, I may be heavier than the other kids, I thought, but I can do this — and I'm good.

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