Dennis Wilson (December 4, 1944 – December 28, 1983)
American musician Dennis Carl Wilson was co-founder and drummer for the Beach Boys. Dennis was responsible for their songs Forever, Little Bird and Slip On Through. He also helped write Joe Cocker’s 1974 hit You Are So Beautiful.
Dennis released a solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue in 1977. A follow-up, Bambu was in the works when Dennis passed away. In 1988, Dennis was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Beach Boys.
Dennis was always the black sheep of the Wilson family; a fact he, too, acknowledged. He refused to participate in family sing alongs and had an anxious, aggressive, yet sensitive and generous nature. He ended up in the Beach Boys because the Wilson brothers (Brian, Carl and Dennis) would sing together late at night in their shared bedroom and their mother forced Brian to include Dennis in the original line-up. The Beach Boys also included their cousin Mike Love.
A particular part of Dennis’ life that he rarely talked about was his involvement with Charles Manson. Driving through Malibu in 1968, he saw Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey hitchhiking. He delivered them to their destination. Later he saw them hitchhiking again and, again, dropped them off. He went on to a recording session. At 3 am, when he returned home, Charles Manson and a dozen of his followers were on his premises. The family ended up living with him on Dennis’ dime. Manson dabbled in song writing and the Beach Boys reworked a Manson song into Never Learn Not to Love as a B-side single off their 20/20 album. After Manson allegedly threatened Dennis’ family by showing him a bullet, Dennis beat him up and dissolved the friendship by moving out of his own house. After further attempts to contact Dennis were rejected, Manson left a bullet with a cryptic message with Dennis’ housekeeper.
After this time period, Dennis began withdrawing from an active participation with the Beach Boys, preferring to take on a creative force behind-the-scenes. During the 1970s his onstage antics (usually streaking) began to disrupt Beach Boys shows. In the 1980s Dennis’ abuse of alcohol and heroin had taken their toll. He was banned from performing with the band and would only be allowed to rejoin them if he went to a detox program.
At the time of his death, Dennis was homeless and living nomadically. In November 1983, he checked into an Arizona therapy center. Just before Christmas, he was back in California, in and out of Santa Monica hospitals. On December 28, 1983, Dennis drowned at Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles. He had been drinking all day. In the afternoon he began driving, trying to recover items he had thrown overboard into the marina from his yacht three years earlier. Dennis was 38 years old. He was survived by his wife (he was separated from but not divorced), Shawn Marie Love and sons, Gage, Michael and Carl and his adopted son Scott and daughter Jennifer.