The Beach Boys Dennis Wilson left us 34 years ago today. Dennis Carl Wilson was…

Written by on December 28, 2017


The Beach Boys Dennis Wilson left us 34 years ago today.

Dennis Carl Wilson was a musician, singer, and songwriter who co-founded the Beach Boys. He is best remembered as their drummer. He was the middle brother of bandmates Brian and Carl Wilson.

Although The Beach Boys were known for their ‘surf’ music, Dennis was the only true surfer in the group. He led the ideal California lifestyle that the group’s early songs often celebrated.

His only solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue, was released in 1976 to positive reviews, but a moderate commercial reception. In 1988, Dennis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously as a member of the Beach Boys.

Not many people know that Dennis was one of the songwriters of the song “You Are So Beautiful” which was a huge hit for Joe Cocker. Though not officially credited as one of the song’s writers, Dennis spontaneously collaborated on the words and music to the song at a party with Billy Preston. Dennis never sought any share of the song’s authorship. Without instrumental accompaniment, Wilson sang “You Are So Beautiful” as an encore at Beach Boys shows intermittently from 1975 until his death in 1983.

For a month prior to his death, Dennis had been homeless and living a nomadic life. In November 1983, he checked into a therapy center in Arizona for two days, and then on December 23, checked into St. John’s Medical Hospital in Santa Monica, where he stayed until the evening of December 25. Following a violent altercation at the Santa Monica Bay Inn, Dennis checked into a different hospital in order to treat his wounds. Several hours later, he discharged himself and reportedly resumed drinking immediately.

On December 28, 1983, 24 days after his 39th birthday, Dennis drowned at Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles, after drinking all day and then diving into the Pacific Ocean to recover items he had thrown overboard from his yacht three years prior. On January 4, 1984, the U.S. Coast Guard buried Dennis’ body at sea, off the California coast. The Beach Boys shortly released a statement stating: “We know Dennis would have wanted to continue in the tradition of the Beach Boys. His spirit will remain in our music.” His song “Farewell My Friend” was played at the funeral.

Dennis’ widow, Shawn Love, reported that Dennis desired a burial at sea. Non-veterans of the Coast Guard and Navy are not allowed to be buried at sea unless cremated. Dennis’ brothers Carl and Brian did not wish for Dennis to be cremated. Dennis’ burial was made possible by the intervention of President Reagan.

RIP Dennis. You were a rebel and there were so many of us who wanted to be like you.




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