Founding member of the Beach Boys
, one of the most popular and influential bands of the 20th Century, along with brothers Brian and Carl Wilson, cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine. Born the middle child to an abusive and domineering father, Dennis and his brothers would become possibly the most talented siblings in Rock and Roll history. Initially appointed the band's drummer at his mother's insistance, it was 16 year old Dennis who suggested brother Brian write a song about one of his favorite pastimes. Surfin' became the Beach Boy's first single and the theme to many of their early albums. As Brian Wilson's compositions and arrangements progressed, so did the group's talents. Dennis' vocal contributions to the group's signature harmonies are unmistakable and his occasional yet always stellar leads were a fan favorite. Always underestimated as a drummer although used much more in early recordings than previously thought, Dennis revolutionized what a rock 'n' roll drummer was with his unorthodox, primitive style and the raw and sincere emotion only he could put into every beat. As Brian continued to climb his incredbile creative mountain in the studio, Dennis held up the live power on the road.....and with the girls. Seen as the guy every boy wanted to be and Beach Boy every girl wanted, Dennis was the group's sex symbol. As well as it's rebel. Dennis was literally living many of the songs his brother was writing. An avid surfer, racer, and all around outdoorsmen Dennis constantly lived a life on the edge. As 1966 approached the band was about to make it's biggest artistic statement yet, the Brian Wilson
produced Pet Sounds
would become regarded as one of the greatest records of all time. But Brian, the newly labeled genius, would soon find the pressure as well as the criticism of his follow-up to Pet Sounds, SMiLE by fellow band members (particularly Mike Love) too much to bare. As Brian became less and less involved in the band, the remaining members were forced to try and fill his enormous void. While most members were prone to exploit their past hits, the new creative flow Brian had opened up was left instead to be carried on by the most unlikely source: his brother Dennis. Along with baby brother Carl as producer and leader, Dennis' compositions became second only to Brian's in the Beach Boy's musical catalogue. Dennis soon proved the most important writer to the band through the late 60s and into the 70s. Though sidelined from drumming for a few years in the early 70s due to a hand injury, many consider this Dennis' prime. In 1970 Dennis also became the first and only Beach Boy to star in a movie, the Monte Hellman car classic Two Lane Blacktop, appropriately cast as the mechanic alongside singer/songwriter James Taylor. The film recieved good reviews and is now regarded as a cult classic. The mid to late 1970s was a difficult time for the band. After the 1974 unauthorized release of Endless Summer, a greatest hits compilation (pre 1966), by the group's former label Capitol Records in alliance with Mike Love, the Beach Boys were pushed more and more into becoming an oldies act much to the dismay of Dennis and Carl. Tension continued to build up between band members, but in 1977 Dennis managed to produce a Beach Boy first. A solo album titled Pacific Ocean Blue was released to critical acclaim and reached #96 on the Billboard charts and went on to sell over 300,000 copies (more than the Beach Boy's album at the time). First and foremost a Beach Boy, Dennis put any planned solo tours on hold at the bands insistance as well as a follow-up album, Bambu which would find some of it's proposed tracks on future Beach Boy albums due to lack of good material. Always a very giving, loving, and humble person Dennis would be described by family and friends as having a huge heart as well as giving whatever he had or was asked of to others. This was his greatest trait and biggest fault. The late 70s and early 80s saw Dennis rapidly declining due alcohol abuse, the yearning for love and for his talent to be fully recognized. On December 28, 1983, three weeks past his 39th birthday, Dennis drowned in Marina del Rey, California. He left behind 6 children, his mother Audree, his brothers Brian and Carl, and his many devoted fans all over the world. In 2008 his widely sought after only solo album Pacific Ocean Blue, out of print for nearly 30 years, will see a Legacy Edition re-release along with Bambu, it's previously unreleased follow-up. Dennis' rich musical contributions and one of a kind spirit and heart will undoubtedly continue to reach more and more people the world over in the years to come.
"Brian Wilson is the Beach Boys. He is the band. We're his fucking messengers. He is all of it. Period. We're nothing. He's everything." --Dennis Wilson
“The greatest success in life is to feel I’m something for someone; the feeling of falling in love, the newness of love.” --Dennis Wilson
"Everything that I am or will ever be is in the music. If you want to know me, just listen." --Dennis Wilson