The music world and members of the Malibu community are mourning the death of native son, Dennis Dragon. The 70-year-old unexpectedly took his own life last month in Oregon.
Dennis Dragon was the youngest son of the world-renowned arranger, composer and conductor Carmen Dragon and opera soprano Eloise Dragon. The five Dragon siblings all became musicians with Dennis playing drums. Brother Daryl is “The Captain” of The Captain and Tennille. Dennis produced and engineered their first album, including the Grammy winning hit “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Dragon worked with Johnny Rivers and Carole King. He played drums for more than a decade with The Beach Boys and toured with The Byrds, Neil Young, Rick Springfield and others.
Dragon had great success as the founder of the zany rock band “The Surf Punks,” writing, singing, engineering, drumming and producing videos for the band.
“Dennis recorded every drop of that—produced it,” his cousin Alan Goulding related. Through his dad, who had recording equipment, Dragon learned the business at a young age.
“The Surf Punks were huge locally. Everyone in Los Angeles knew them,” Goulding said. “Dennis had a life unlike anyone else. He never worked for anyone. He was always independent. He never worked at a job like a lot of us have.” Goulding indicated a lot of big name bands wanted Dragon as their drummer, but Dragon was more interested in body surfing. “Huge success was never anything that Dennis really respected for himself. It was all about ocean, beach, Frisbee and ping-pong.”
Dennis was full of life, super energetic and an amazing spirit. His niece, Kelly McBride recalled, “Any time you were around a Dragon family member, the jam sessions were unforgettable.”
Dragon’s former wife Heather Hollifield said Dragon had a big impact on those around him.
“He grew up in Malibu and touched so many people’s lives in so many ways, be it music or at the beach,” Hollifield said. “The guy was in all the right places at all the right times.”
Eight years ago, Dragon moved to Oregon and opened a recording studio.
“He really liked Oregon,” Hollifield recalled. “His studio was booked all the time. We were shocked when we got the phone call [that he died]—trying to piece things together now. He most likely got a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. He may have been nervous. That’s the only thing we can think of. There’s no good reason. He seemed really happy there.” Hollifield added, “He adored his kids. He loved his boys Cody and Jack. They’re going to miss him so much.”
Point Dume resident, musician/composer Richard Henn was a good friend and married to Dragon’s late sister Kathy. Henn says he was shocked to hear the news since he spoke with Dragon the day of his death.
“His passing came out of nowhere,” Henn said. “A complete shock—totally out of nowhere. He said he’d call back later, but no call ever came. There was no hint of sadness or depression. He was as high energy and upbeat as ever. He sounded happy. But this was Dennis. He was unpredictable. When I heard about it, it just killed me.
Dennis was unequivocally the most unique individual I ever met. He was a true original, funny, brilliant, quick witted and a really talented musician and producer. It was fun making music with him. My heart is broken. He was a Renaissance man. He did everything really well. He was a great photographer and an amazing waterman too.”
Local Judy Mora was a lifelong friend who said, “He started a gag band, the Surf Punks. It took off and everybody who was involved ... he gave us an identity. He made everybody feel so special.” Dragon also steered a lot of people away from drugs according to Mora who related, “Here came this handsome, tall surfer, captivating personality who said, ‘Don’t do drugs. You’re clouded. You can’t enjoy life. How can you surf, play music, Frisbee if you’re high.’ Everybody wanted Dennis’ approval. He would light up a room. He was a kooky character. Every day he went in the ocean. It was church to him.”
Dragon is survived by his former wife, Heather; two children, Cody and Jack, and brothers Daryl and Doug. Dragon was preceded in death by his parents and sisters Kathy and Carmen.
There will be a paddle out in his memory Sunday, November 19, at 11 a.m. on Carbon Beach. Please RSVP to DennisDragonMemorial@gmail.com