The Beach Boys might seem better suited to PBS’ Fourth of July special than to its Memorial Day commemoration, but the pop-music icons have their place in the more somber event.
They’re part of the typically diverse talent lineup for the National Memorial Day Concert, as the 27th annual edition has its public-television airing Sunday (May 29). Longtime friends Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”) and Gary Sinise (“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders”) share the hosting duties for the 11th consecutive year — and for executive producers Jerry and Michael Colbert — on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
“I wear a bangle on my left wrist that was given to me by a fellow who was in the Central Highlands of Vietnam,” Beach Boys co-founder and lead singer Mike Love tells Zap2it, “and this bangle was created by a Buddhist tribe that was not going for the communist thing. And this fellow who was in the war gave it to me as a symbol of how much our music meant to him and his compatriots while they were doing what they had to do.
“There are so many stories of how much our music has meant not only to the guys out doing battle, but also the wives and children and girlfriends back home,” Love adds. “It gave them a sense of comfort and happiness, so I take it seriously and I take it personally. It’s a fantastic thing to have something we did – having ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ doing our shows and living an unbelievably great life – mean so much to so many people.”
Also slated to perform in this year’s Memorial Day show are opera’s Renee Fleming, country music’s Trace Adkins, actors S. Epatha Merkerson (“Chicago Med”) and Esai Morales (who did several “Criminal Minds” episodes with Mantegna), singer-actor Alfie Boe, and two people with ties to “American Idol”: Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee (now of “Scorpion”) and the contest’s latest and last winner, Trent Harmon.
With Gen. Colin Powell and the National Symphony Orchestra (again conducted by Jack Everly) returning as usual, co-host Mantegna agrees the steadily touring Beach Boys may not be an expected act for the occasion, but believes they’re relevant to it.
“I’m from the Vietnam War era, and I think the songs of the Beach Boys are of that ilk and of that time,” the Tony Award-winning actor reflects. “We’re always well-represented by country artists (in the concert), then it’s usually an eclectic group of other artists, so it’s run the gamut of different acts. Sometimes, it’s good to have a celebratory aspect to the music on Memorial Day as well.
“It’s always going to have its heavy aspects,” Mantegna notes, “but sometimes, it’s nice to just recall a time like the ’60s, which has a such a double feeling to me. I was doing the play ‘Hair’ then, with all its peace, love and rock and roll … and on the other hand, we were going through this terrible time in terms of what our military had to deal with. So, I think it’s interesting in a way to have the Beach Boys.”
For the holiday appearance, Love — who has an autobiographical book coming later this year — says his group is being selective about songs while not diverting from tradition.
“We’re going to start with ‘California Girls,’ and we’re going to do ‘Sloop John B’ and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice,’ and we’re going to do ‘Good Vibrations’ in its entirety. It is the 50th anniversary of ‘Good Vibrations” and (the album) ‘Pet Sounds,’ so we’ve got a lot to be thankful for. And we’re going to create more memories on Memorial Day.”