Devoted surfer Dennis Wilson had a great idea for how to capitalize on the popularity of his favorite sport. We’re lucky he shared his idea with his fellow Beach Boys.
“Hey, surfing’s getting really big. You guys ought to write a song about it.”
-Dennis Wilson to his brother Brian and cousin Mike Love, in 1961
A devoted surfer had a great idea for how to capitalize on the popularity of his favorite sport, and a musical legend was born. Dennis Wilson was, in fact, the only real surfer in The Beach Boys, despite the boards-and-baggies image the band displayed. He was also the band’s drummer, as well as a guitarist and pianist who occasionally took lead vocal duties.
Dennis Wilson wasn’t just a Beach Boy – he was also a solo artist. His first recording without the Beach Boys was released in 1970. He enlisted the help of friend Daryl Dragon (the Captain of Captain and Tennille) and recorded “Sound of Free,” released under the name Dennis Wilson & Rumbo.
Wilson also had a brief movie career, starring in the 1971 cult classic Two-Lane Blacktop. Though not a box-office smash, the film was named Esquire‘s movie of the year, and it held further notoriety – it inspired the creators of the coast-to-coast Cannonball Run, who organized their first race that same year.
Dennis Wilson would have turned 67 today, but the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll took their toll, and Wilson died in 1983, just 39 years old. Played at his funeral was his solo track “Farewell My Friend,” a song Wilson described as “sort of a happy farewell.”