Don't Worry Baby

The Beach Boys

Song Review by Donald A. Guarisco

This song is renowned by Beach Boys fans as one of Brian Wilson's finest pre-Pet Sounds achievements. The narrative of "Don't Worry Baby" seems to be another hot-rod epic on the surface, but a closer look at the lyrics reveals a dual-layered narrative: the song's narrator is anxious about a race that he bragged his way into but his thoughts reveal that his deepest fear is losing the love of the girl he depends upon. However, these fears are dashed away by chorus time when she sweetly tells him "Don't worry, baby." The melody that Wilson wraps around the lyric is one of his most soothing: the verses pile on staccato notes that spiral ever higher to keep up with the frantic pace of the verses' lyrics but the melody resolves itself with a transcendentally gorgeous chorus that builds its complex vocal lines on soothing patterns of descending notes. The Beach Boys' recording perfectly captures the song's mixture of swooning emotions and heartfelt romance with a stylish Brian Wilson vocal arrangement: the group's multi-tracked harmonies blend choir-like purity with full-blooded emotion and Brian Wilson's falsetto lead gives the song just the right touch of vulnerability. The instrumentation is kept simple but does its job nicely: throbbing piano lines, insistent drumming, and plucked guitar notes quietly build a necessary tension beneath the deep-dish harmonies. Simply put, the sophistication that infuses every angle of "Don't Worry Baby" makes it one of the Beach Boys' towering achievements. It has also inspired a wide variety of interpretations, the best being B.J. Thomas' country-inflected version and Bryan Ferry's surf rock-meets-Bacharach cover on These Foolish Things. However, the Beach Boys' recording of "Don't Worry Baby" remains the version of choice for many listeners because it captures the swooning emotions inside every teenager's heart in a way that few songs have ever done.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Shut Down, Vol. 2 1964 Capitol / EMI Records
The Absolute Best, Vol. 1 1991 Capitol 0:00