Late in February, Ben Kweller and his wife, Liz, lost their 16-year-old son, Dorian Zev, in a tragic car accident. Aspiring to be a musician like his father and recording under the name ZEV, Dorian was set to make his live debut at South by Southwest later this month. The entire music community shares in the Kwellers’ sorrow, and mourns the loss of a burgeoning talent and spirited young man.
The Kwellers have launched a GoFundMe page to help create the Dorian Kweller Memorial Fund, with the goal of turning the fund into a 501(c)(3) non-profit to help musicians and skateboarders like Dorian by supporting initiatives within those communities. To show people why the Memorial Fund was started and inspire donations — as well as begin to heal from their own grief — Ben and Liz have penned a personal obituary for their son.
The heartfelt eulogy sheds a light on the kind of person Dorian was, from his zest for music to his love of the skateboarding community to his excitement about what the future held. Read it below, and if you are so inclined, contribute to the Dorian Kweller Memorial Fund here.
Our son Dorian Zev Kweller died in a freak car accident on Monday, February 27th, 2023. He was 16 years old. He was going the speed limit, phone in its holder, seatbelt on, doing everything right. He was freestyle rapping to his favorite instrumental playlist when an oncoming truck drifted towards him. Dorian swerved into the shoulder to avoid the oncoming truck. While in the shoulder, a downed broken tree branch from the recent freeze came through the window and hit him on the right side of his head. He died instantly. The airbags didn’t go off, the car wasn’t overly damaged. He would’ve walked away from this had it not been for that one branch. When Dorian was born, our main wish for him was to have a zest for life. That wish came true times a hundred. Our baby was riding high until his final minute on earth.
Dorian came into this world on May 30th, 2006. He took his first breath in a tiny NYC delivery room while the music of Mason Jennings played in the background. Dorian received his first drum set at the age of 2 and played a 4/4 rock beat before his father could show him how. He was a wordsmith from the time he could speak — rhyming and freestyling from his car seat to the backyard, to the bed.
In 2008 we relocated to Austin, TX where we spent countless days hiking the greenbelt and swimming in local swimming holes. When Dorian had his mind set on something he was unstoppable. His first mission was to learn how to skateboard. Music and skating ultimately became his two lifelong passions.
Dorian attended Habibi’s Hutch preschool and Zilker Elementary school where he made lifelong friends. During his time at Zilker, he received the “Friend to All” and “Do It My Own Way” awards. While these accolades became loving jokes inside the household, they were spot on. He truly was a unique, outside of the box thinking ‘friend to all.’ One of his strongest bonds was with his brother Judah, who was born in 2010. Dorian protected and adored Judah and they were deeply intertwined. Dorian was a spiritual person who perceived deeper meaning in life. He was authentic, kind and generous. He saw the good in everyone and was never embarrassed to be himself because he was confident in who he was.
In 2018 we moved to Dripping Springs where Dorian attended Skybridge Academy (now known as The Appamada School) then Dripping Springs High where he continued to expand his vast circle of friends. He was heavily involved in the local Dripping Springs Skate Club and the Austin skate scene at large. Dorian cherished every minute he had with his skate friends and knew every public and private skate spot in central Texas. Dorian was an integral member of the acclaimed DSHS music program where he played the bass drum and tenor/quad drums. His expressive drumming helped bring DSHS to the State Finals two years in a row.
His knack for wordplay came alive in high school as did his guitar playing and audio production skills. 2021 was the year that Dorian got serious about his life as an artist. He worked under his middle name, ZEV, which is Hebrew for “wolf.” Every day after school, he oscillated between hip-hop beats, acoustic ballads, indie-guitar rockers, and lofi chill-wave grooves. One of the last traits that Dorian developed, and perhaps the most stunning, was his lush singing voice. ZEV released music to the public for the first time on July 1st, 2022.
On February 25th, 2023, two days before Dorian’s passing, TikTok superstar Masked Mortal discovered his song “SH3” and noted ZEV’s “voice that could cut butter.” ZEV was scheduled to make his live debut at SXSW on March 17th, 2023. He was looking forward to his senior year of high school and visiting potential colleges with his eye on Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Music was looking like a viable career path for him and at the same time Volatile Skateboards offered him a sponsorship deal just six hours before the car crash.