Billy Hinsche, longtime Beach Boys touring member and one-third of ‘60s pop-rock trio Dino, Desi and Billy, has died at age 70.
Lucie Arnaz — daughter of I Love Lucy stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and sister of the latter band’s Desi Arnaz Jr. — confirmed Hinsche’s death Saturday on Instagram, writing, “Giant cell carcinoma. Only diagnosed a couple weeks ago. It ravaged him like an out of control train.”
Hinsche was born in Manila, the Philippines in 1951, but he moved with his family to Beverly Hills as a child, becoming friends with Desi Arnaz Jr. and Dean Martin’s son Dean Paul Martin. The trio eventually formed their band and signed with Reprise Records, who released their four proper studio albums and a run of singles, including the 1965 hits “I’m a Fool” (later covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks) and “Not the Lovin’ Kind.”
During this period, the group landed opening spots for major acts like the Mamas & the Papas, the Lovin’ Spoonful and, most famously, the Beach Boys. The latter’s Brian Wilson later co-wrote Dino, Desi and Billy’s final single, 1970’s “Lady Love.”
The Beach Boys connection proved crucial for Hinsche, who joined that band as a touring multi-instrumentalist from 1971 to 1977, then again from 1982 to 1996. He also appeared on a handful of their LPs: His credits include backing vocals on 1973’s Holland, and guitar on 1976’s 15 Big Ones and 1978’s M.I.U. Album.
Hinsche also found studio work with artists like America, Joan Jett, Warren Zevon, Elton John (backing vocals on 1974’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”) and the Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson (1983’s Youngblood). (Hinsche’s sister Annie was married to Wilson.)
“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,” Beach Boys member 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.
“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,” he continued. “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.”
Brian Wilson also paid tribute on Instagram, sharing a photo with the caption, “Love & Mercy Billy Hinsche.”
In Memoriam: 2021 Deaths
Remembering the musicians, actors, producers and others who have died in 2021.