Dennis Wilson Biography

4 December 1944, Hawthorne, California, USA, d. 28 December 1983, California, USA. The former drummer with the Beach Boys started to develop as a notable songwriter during the late 60s when his elder brother, Brian Wilson, became less prolific. Dennis blossomed showing a hitherto unseen sensitivity which had always been clouded by his wild nature and legendary womanizing. On Friends he composed ‘Little Bird’ and the hymn-like ‘Be Still’ and although both songs were painfully short, the talent was unfolding. He showed his class on Sunflower in 1970 and again in 1972 with Carl And The Passions-So Tough. On the former he delivered four songs but the jewel in the crown was ‘Forever’, one of the finest Beach Boys songs of all time - simple yet effective lines such as ‘If every word I said could make you laugh, I’d talk forever’ indicated Dennis was the true romantic of the group. ‘Cuddle Up’ from So Tough was originally criticized for its lush orchestral arrangement, but 20 years on, it stands up as a highly individual song.

Wilson continued to write similar songs despite being plagued by a growing drug habit. Pacific Ocean Blue in 1977 was a tour de force and must have left the other members of the band pleasantly aghast. This was a mature collection of songs, lyrically strong, melodic and expertly produced. The rich textured orchestrations on tracks like ‘Moonshine’ and ‘River Song’ were breathtaking, but the album was only a critical success and barely made the US Hot 100. Wilson, sadly became a tragic figure, his voice so badly wracked through drug and alcohol abuse that it ended up as merely a painful croak. During a break from recording his unreleased Bamboo in 1983, Wilson drowned after diving from his yacht in the harbour at Marina Del Ray, California. As the only Beach Boy to have actually surfed, special dispensation was given by the USA President to the Wilson family to bury Dennis at sea.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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