Yesterday would’ve been the 69th birthday of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson so I played a bit of his quite spectacular solo work River Song on the radio in his honour. After playing the clip it occurred to me it must be close to 30 years since his death (through drowning) and a quick Google search reveals that December 28 will be that sad anniversary.
Dennis was famous both as the drummer for the Beach Boys and as the only member of the band who actually surfed. Overshadowed in the band by his genius songwriting brother Brian, angelic-voiced brother Carl and the hit-factory that was cousin Mike Love, Dennis surprised the music world with the assured solo release Pacific Ocean Blue in 1977.
In an album of strong cuts, undoubtedly the strongest was River Song. Co-written with brother Carl, River Song was the hitherto unvisited genre of secular surf gospel and still sounds arresting 36 years on. With lyrics contrasting the beauty of American mountain areas (namely the High Sierras) with the increasingly smog-ridden LA, River Song had been lurking in the Beach Boys live repertoire for some years before being fully fleshed out for Pacific Ocean Blue.
For fellow Beach Boys fans, here is Dennis Wilson’s River Song: