I’ve been remembering Dennis Carl Wilson today. On this day back in 1983, he dove into the waters at Marina del Rey in California, trying to recover possessions from his beloved yacht, Harmony, that were lying at the bottom of the sea. He never came back, succumbing to the ocean that he he loved so dearly. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
I was born into the city life
It’s all that I’ve ever known
You know it’s rough gettin’ round this place
So crowded I can hardly breathe
You can only see about a block or two
In L. A. that’s the truth
I’m lookin’ for some country life
Some kickin’ room no more city life
I want the river
-“River Song” (Pacific Ocean Blue)
Dennis was the original inspiration for the Beach Boys. His passion for cars, girls and surfing inspired his older brother Brian’s compositions that skyrocketed the group into mainstream success as America’s band. Dennis was The Real Beach Boy – the only member of the group who actually surfed. He lived the life described in Brian Wilson’s songs all too well.
Wild, impulsive, reckless, volatile, womanizing, alcoholic, unfortunate friend of Charles Manson… all accurate descriptions of Dennis Wilson. But I remember him as a haunted poet, a true Byronic Hero. A deeply troubled soul yearning for acceptance and true love. A pained, tortured and lonesome man who loved both the the sea and music. A musical genius in his own right. Unfortunately, his life ended tragically and all too early before he could find the redemption he craved.
The sunshine blinded me this morning love
Like the sunshine love comes and goes again
I love you I love you
The sea air it’s flowing through my room again
Like the thoughts of you fill my heart with joy again
I miss you
All things that live one day must die you know
Even love and the things we hold close
Look at love look at love look at love
Look what we’ve done
Loneliness is a very special place
To forget is something that I’ve never done
Silently silently you touch my face
-“Thoughts of You” (Pacific Ocean Blue)
Dennis Wilson was truely an underrated talent. Although sparsely included in the Beach Boys’ catalog, some of his compositions do appear on several Beach Boys albums and reveal at the genius that lay beneath the surface of his wildman persona (“Be Still” and “Little Bird” from Friends, “Only With You” from Holland “Be With Me” from 20/20,”Forever” from Sunflower, “Cuddle Up” from Carl and the Passions – So Tough, “Baby Blue” from L.A. (Light Album), etc…)
In 1977, Dennis released his first and only complete solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue. I highly recommend listening to this exquisitely heartbreaking album. His dark, melancholy music serves as a poignant counterpoint to the joyful exuberance that has stereotyped the Beach Boys and really gives an insight into his troubled soul. The soulful ache in his gravelly, crackling voice combined with a creative blend of symphonic sounds and rock and roll to create an inspired album.
After being out of print for many years, Pacific Ocean Blue was released a few years ago, including tracks from Dennis’ unfinished follow-up album, Bambu, which are equally as stunning. Adam Webb wrote pretty good biography entitled Dumb Angel: The Life and Music of Dennis Wilson, which I recommend reading. There are some inaccuracies, but I really enjoyed it overall. The Drummer, a biopic focusing on Dennis’ life during the period surrounding his solo career is currently in the works, featuring Aaron Eckhart as Dennis. I’m really interested in seeing how that turns out, especially in light of the surviving Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary reunion in 2012. Hopefully we will see a resurgence of interest in and appreciation for Dennis’ music and the man himself. Rest in peace in the Pacific Ocean Blue, Denny.
Here we are
With our dreams in the sky
We all have our dreams
It’s wonderful to know we’re alive
At the end
– “End of the Show” (Pacific Ocean Blue)