Isn’t that puppy just adorable? In fact, the only thing more adorable than an Irish Setter puppy is…
As a kid, I remember loving this song despite its sad premise. Apparently I have a thing for high male voices, which you will see for yourself as the next few weeks unfold. Back in 1976 I was self-absorbed enough to not really think too much about who “Shannon” might be, but I do remember hearing something about a dog, probably from Casey Kasem on Top 40. So in preparation for this series I did some research.
There is one school of thought (I know! Who knew there were enough people emotionally invested in this song to form a school of thought?) that says the song is about an Irish Setter owned by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. The story goes that during the years when Brian Wilson struggled with depression, a friend gifted him with an Irish Setter puppy, which Mr. Wilson named Shannon. The love of his puppy was enough to help dispel the clouds of depression and Mr. Wilson and Shannon spent many hours playing and romping along the California beaches. One day Shannon was carried out to sea by the waves, and Brian Wilson once again took to his bed. That certainly makes sense, considering the lyrics.
However, there is another school of thought on the matter, and this one I found on Mr. Gross’ own website. (By the way, did you know he used to be in Sha-Na-Na? Raise your hand if you remember their TV show.) It still involves an Irish Setter named Shannon and a member of the Beach Boys, but in this version the dog is owned by Carl Wilson, and it was killed when it was hit by a car, which is not nearly as romantic and lyrical as drowning. Since the song is dedicated to Carl Wilson, it makes sense that it was his dog.
I think the first story is sweeter though, don’t you?