Q Magazine

Remembering Dennis Wilson by Shining a Spotlight on His Work Within the Beach Boys and His Solo Album, 'Pacific Ocean Blue'

Lest it be forgotten, he was the only legit surfer within the roster of the Beach Boys

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Source: MEGA / Caribou Records

Dennis Wilson, looking spiffy in the '60s and shaggy in the '70s

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His big brother Brian was known for his beautiful songs and his little brother Carl was known for his beautiful voice, but for far too many years, Dennis Wilson was known as often as not for being the only member of the Beach Boys who actually surfed.

Not that that's not a valid reason to be remembered, mind you, especially when you're a member of the best-known surfing-related band of all time, but it's definitely a wonderful thing that Dennis's efforts as a songwriter as well as a singer have come to be better appreciated over the years.

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wills q template
Source: MEGA

The Beach Boys - that's Dennis in the middle - in November 1966.

In the early years of his career with the Beach Boys, Dennis was known predominantly for his work behind the drum kit, rarely getting a chance to spread his wings as either a singer or a songwriter. Now, to be fair, given the combination of his brothers Brian and Carl, his cousin Mike Love, and his friend and fellow bandmate Al Jardine, it was understandable why Dennis wouldn't take center stage right off the bat, especially considering that his vocal range was relatively limited. As time passed, however, he got the chance to sing on occasion, and for better or worse, as Brian found himself drifting away from the band for various reasons, the opportunities for Dennis to contribute some of his songs to the Beach Boys increased.

He released his first and only solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue, in 1977. While it was not a commercial success (and it eventually went out of print for a long period in the 1990s), it would later be reclaimed as an under-appreciated classic upon its re-release in 2008.

Unfortunately, even as eccentric as Brian proved to be over the years, Dennis eventually reached a point where he was even more unreliable than his older brother, eventually reaching a point where he was given an ultimatum in September 1983: check into rehab for his alcohol problems or be banned from performing live with them. He chose the latter, although he did eventually check himself into a treatment center just before Christmas 1983. It didn't take, however, and within a few days, Dennis Wilson was gone, drowning in Marina Del Rey on December 28, 1983.

It may have been 40 years since Dennis's death, but as the saying goes, the music goes on forever. In fact, Dennis actually sang lead vocals on the Beach Boys' song "Forever," which is part of the playlist that Q has compiled to remember his musical accomplishments. It's a mix of songs that he wrote and songs that he sang, and if we've done our job properly, it's a solid showcase for the work that Dennis did within his lifetime, both with the Beach Boys and on his own.


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