Billy Hinsche, singer in the Sixties boy band Dino, Desi and Billy and longtime member of the Beach Boys’ touring unit, has died at the age of 70.
Lucie Arnaz — the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and whose brother Desi Arnaz Jr. was a member of Dino, Desi and Billy, along with Hinsche and Dean Martin’s son Dean Paul Martin — confirmed Hinsche’s death Saturday, revealing the cause as giant cell carcinoma.
“Only diagnosed a couple weeks ago,” Lucie Arnaz wrote on Instagram. “It ravaged him like an out of control train.” Coincidentally, Hinsche died on the same day as his 95-year-old mother Celia.
Born in the Philippines, Hinsche and his family moved during his childhood to Beverly Hills, where he became school friends with the sons of Arnaz and Martin. The three teenagers formed a trio in the early Sixties and, thanks to their connections, quickly secured a record contract.
While Dino, Desi and Billy had a few hits in 1965 — including “I’m a Fool” and “Not the Lovin’ Kind” — it was serving as opening act for the Beach Boys during this period that had a more lasting impact on Hinsche’s career; Hinsche and Brian Wilson also co-wrote Dino, Desi and Billy’s final single, “Lady Love.”
After completing his schooling in the late Sixties, Hinsche joined the Beach Boys as a member of their touring unit and session musician. The multi-instrumentalist’s first tenure with the group ran from 1971 to 1977 — with Hinsche appearing on all albums from that era, from 1972’s Carl and the Passions – “So Tough” to 1980’s Keepin’ the Summer Alive — and then again from 1982 to 1996. In addition to playing keyboards and rhythm guitar, Hinsche was tasked with singing their hit “Sail On, Sailor” on tour in place of the song’s original vocalist Blondie Chaplin:
“We lost a great friend, family member, and forever member of The Beach Boys band on Saturday. We’ll miss him greatly, especially his family members will feel his loss most deeply,” Mike Love tweeted Sunday.
“All of us who had the pleasure of knowing him will miss his jovial nature and immense talent and sense of humor. Billy was a loving son to his mother Celia who incredibly passed Saturday as well.”
We lost a great friend, family member, and forever member of The Beach Boys band on Saturday. We’ll miss him greatly, especially his family members will feel his loss most deeply. pic.twitter.com/yR6OF2ber4
— Mike Love (@MikeLoveOFCL) November 21, 2021
Love continued, “Very few of us knew the seriousness of his illness and Billy right up until his last couple of months didn’t let on to how serious his condition was. His wonderful sister Annie let us know that he was not long for this world… The world misses you Billy, we were better for having your spirit, laughter, Talent, Friendship & Love.”
Hinsche, along with the Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston, is also credited as a background singer on Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
Hinsche’s sister Annie was also married to late Beach Boys member Carl Wilson, making Hinsche the uncle of Brian Wilson’s children.
“I can’t believe you are gone,” Wilson’s daughter Carnie wrote on Instagram. “My memories of you growing up laughing, joking, playing the keyboards, Carl’s bestie, Annie’s brother , Celia’s son, Dino Desi and You… my Uncle Billy. Sgt. Bilco. You’re hair that was always great… I watched it turn gray over the years but your energy never got old. Thank you for making this world a better place with your relentless spirit and sense of humor. [Your] talent was so huge and you were always one step ahead of us all with your ideas and creativity.”
Brian Wilson also paid tribute to Hinsche: