When Carl Wilson was diagnosed with lung cancer last year he insisted on carrying on touring with the other three Beach Boys even though he was undergoing chemotherapy. It was his 36th year of touring since they founded the band in 1961 and, as it turned out, his last.
The Californian-born guitarist, who sang lead vocal on one of the group's biggest hits "Good Vibrations", died in Los Angeles on Friday evening of complications from lung cancer.
His wife Gina, who is the actor Dean Martin's daughter, and his sons Jonah, 28, and Justin, 26, were with him when he died, but the other surviving members of the band - his brother Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine - were not.
A private funeral is planned for this week.
It is not known whether the rest of the band - known for its laid-back "surfin'" style of music of the early 1960s and hits such as "California Girls", "Help Me Rhonda", "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "God Only Knows" - will go ahead with a planned symphonic tour this summer.
Carl formed the Beach Boys in 1961 along with his older brothers, Brian and Dennis, who drowned while swimming off his yacht in December 1983. They recruited their cousin Mike Love and Jardine, their neighbour in Hawthorne, California, to play their own form of surfin' music in the era just before the Beatles were to transform rock forever.
Their first hit "Surfin' Safari" launched surf music as a fad and they followed it up in early 1963 with "Surfin' USA."
On stage, the group's creative force, bass player and producer, Brian, appeared awkward and fans focused more on drummer Dennis's good looks and the good-humoured banter between Love and Carl.
The band developed a distinctive style, with hits like "I Get Around", "In My Room" and "Don't Worry Baby".
Their ground-breaking 1966 album Pet Sounds has often been compared favorably to the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
However, Pet Sounds sold poorly, and it wasn't until the "psychedelic" classic "Good Vibrations" - a symphonic Top Forty single - that the Beach Boys were elevated to rock superstardom.
Personality problems began to take a toll on the group in the Seventies and as Brian Wilson became paranoid and idiosyncratic, the band's star began to wane, reaching a low point with Dennis's death.