Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 140
Tues. June 18, 2013

The Beach Boys [featuring Dennis Wilson]


“♫ If
every word
I said/
make you

It’s no coincidence that Dennis Wilson had a boat called harmony; this Beach Boy drummer spent his days, nights and his life as and song searching for peace, love and harmony. Although Dennis was the first of his brothers to release a solo album, 1977’s Pacific Ocean Blue, and because he was the first to die in 1983, Dennis legacy will be remembered through his dedication to his glorious vocal harmonies as he once said, “They say I live a fast life. Maybe I just like a fast life. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. It won’t last forever, either. But the memories will.”

Dennis was the voice that kept his brothers Brian and Carl Wilson plus his band mates Mike Love and Al Jardine harmoniously in synch. In an article, “Requiem for a Beach Boy” published in 1985, when Beach Boys historian David Leaf was asked by Brian if he liked the way the group played “Surfer Girl in 1983?” Leaf responded by saying, “Brian, I don’t know why, but it was on that song that I missed Dennis the most. You know, the way he stands at the microphone, with his hand in his ear, his eyes closed, singing and swaying with the music. It’s just not the same when he’s not there.

If you need proof than you need to listen to “Forever,” Dennis Wilson’s Beach Boys vocal tour de force on vinyl. Peter Ames Carlin described Dennis contribution to the bands 1970 album Sunflower, in his book Catch A Wave: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, as “When [Dennis] showed up with his yearning ballad “Forever,” he gave the band a love song that rivaled Brian’s most melodic, emotionally complex ballads.” And that was no understatement from Leaf, all you have to do is listen to Wilson’s “Forever” and you will agree on Brian Wilson’s assessment on Dennis’ lovely song when he said, “Forever” has to be the most harmonically beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. It’s a rock and roll prayer.”

“Forever” which at first sounds like the most perfect Beach Boy love songs to one of Dennis Wilson’s many paramours, maybe at second or third listen, isn’t a lyrical ode to the fairer sex. But what if “Forever” is Dennis paean to his father Murry Wilson? Carlin delved into the complicated relationship between Dennis and his father in his book, Catch A Wave, when he wrote, “All he wanted to achieve with his own music was a glimmer of respect from his father. The mutual disdain that divided Murry from his middle son during his adolescence and beyond had given way at first to tentative acceptance and then real affection.” But unfortunately, according to Dennis ex-wife Barbara, “Dennis longed for Murry’s approval. But my sense was that he never really got it.”

And Dennis wasn’t the only one. His brother’s Brian and Carl all spent their lives looking for recognition from their father Murry. Maybe that’s why they wrote such optimistic songs of love. Maybe the harmonies were The Wilson’s brothers’ way of trying to show love to their very distant father Murry? Brian Wilson once described the Beach Boys harmony as “The sound was essentially background sound, myself, and Carl, Dennis and Al Jardine, Mike was our lead singer. The four of us put our voices together. We had done it really beautifully. We had a beautiful blend. We really did.” It is ironic that a family and band that composed such beautiful and harmonious music The Beach Boys as a family and as a unit lived a very unharmonious life. But every family has some sense of rivalry or some kind of dysfunction, right? Even with all the tumultuous bickering among the band of brothers, I like to think Dennis was talking about songs like “Forever” when he proudly admitted, “If there wasn’t the Beach Boys and there wasn’t music, I would not even know them. I would not even talk to them. But through the music I fell in love with my brothers.”
Dennis Wilson once claimed, “Everything that I am or will ever be is in the music. If you want to know me, just listen.” And the proof is in Dennis’ 1970’s touching and melodious gem, “Forever.” Whatever you may think about the original Beach Boys drummer, he was more than just a rebel rousing Wilson; Dennis, the composer, lived his life without compromise in search of peace and love with harmony. Dennis Wilson’s harmonious free spirit will live “Forever” within the memory of this underrated Beach Boys classic.