Brian Wilson lent his support and vocals to a recording of his 1988 song “Love and Mercy” by a group of Afghan girls who were affected by violence there. In 2012, two sisters were killed by a suicide bomber who’d hoped to kill U.S. troops in Kabul; their sister, Mursal, who was 8 at the time, survived. She met the American musician Lanny Cordola in 2015, and he helped put together an ensemble of former street children called the Miraculous Love Kids/Girl With a Guitar that features Mursal as their frontwoman.
They recorded Wilson’s “Love and Mercy” in tribute to Mursal’s sister and other children who’ve been victims of war and poverty. The former Beach Boy gave the project his full support and recorded new vocals for it. The video shows Mursal, Cordola and other girls playing their guitars, joining in on vocals with Wilson. The emotion and smiles on the girls’ faces show how much the experience meant to them.
“I’m glad music makes the children feel love and mercy,” Wilson said in a statement. “That’s what the music’s all about: making you feel happy.”
In his own statement, Cordola explained how he got the idea for the project. “It [started] in our Miraculous House in Kabul, Afghanistan, when some of the girls began to teach me an Islamic saying, ‘Bismillah Ir Rahman Ir Rahim,’ which means, ‘In the name of God, the all loving, the all merciful,'” he said. “I immediately thought of Brian Wilson’s sonic hymn ‘Love and Mercy’ with its simple yet magisterial chorus: ‘Love and mercy is what you need tonight/So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight.'”
He traveled from Kabul to Los Angeles in 2017 to record Wilson singing “Love and Mercy” and brought it back to Kabul for the girls to record their parts. Similarly, he filmed Wilson’s part of the video in L.A. and the girls in Kabul, and he decided to release the clip on Giving Tuesday in an effort to raise funds for his Miraculous Love Kids nonprofit and GoFundMe for his quest to teach young girls in the Middle East how to play guitar.
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He first met Mursal’s family, and learned how her sisters Parwana and Korshid, had died in 2014. Within a year he was able to relocate the family from what he describes as a Kabul slum to a three-bedroom house in a safer part of the city. He moved to Kabul in 2016 and began teaching in schools and launched his foundation. In his statement, he added, “Music is one of the few art forms that can bring together girls and their guitars from a war-torn, poverty-stricken country like Afghanistan with a musical iconoclast like Brian Wilson for the highest form of connection — songs of justice that aim for transcendence.”