Surf rock pioneer Dick Dale has died at the age of 81.
The guitarist, who is best known for 1962’s ‘Miserlou’, developed the hugely influential sound in the early 1960s by mixing rock with the Middle Eastern influences that he had inherited from his father, who was a Lebanese immigrant.
His fifth song, 1961’s ‘Let’s Go Trippin’, is widely considered to be the first surf rock instrumental and is believed to have sparked its initial popularity. As The Guardian reports, a second of wave of popularity later emerged when The Beach Boys employed “vocal” surf rock on some of their biggest hits.
He also became a huge influence on acts such as Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen, with his sound being often viewed as a precursor to both punk rock and heavy metal.
The legend and king of surf guitar has passed. Condolences to family and friends and all those who were touched by your undeniable presence. Rest In Peace friend.
While ‘Miserlou’ became a huge hit for Dale after he performed it on the Ed Sullivan show in 1962, the song later achieved a second wave of popularity when it became the theme music to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in 1994.
“Having Misirlou as your opening credit, it’s just so intense,” Tarantino previously told Rolling Stone. “It just says you’re watching an epic, you’re watching a big, ol’ movie … It just throws down a gauntlet that the movie now has to live up to.”
Dale’s cause of death is yet to be confirmed, although he was forced to continue touring until his death in order to settle a string of costly medical bills.
Paying tribute, friend and former bandmate Dusty Watson wrote on Facebook, “The legend and king of surf guitar has passed. Condolences to family and friends and all those who were touched by your undeniable presence. Rest In Peace friend.”
View this post on Instagram
RIP Dick Dale – Father of the Surf Guitar. We all owe you. Rock on. 💥💥💥 Look how his guitar is strung ! He’s left handed, but plays essentially a right handed guitar – except for the controls and ‘horns’. So his heavy bass-end strings are at the lower edge of the fretboard. This means his fingers could never fall in the same shapes as the rest of us. Maybe this led him to use those low notes more often and more forcefully than everyone around him. But his highly distinctive sound comes from his very fast up-and down action in the picking hand (sometimes confusingly referred to as ‘tremolo’, in reference to the similar-sounding traditional Flamenco Spanish guitar technique, which is actually done in a very different way, with multiple fingernails). And a lot of echo effect. And thick strings. And a lot of energy !!! Check out his early hit ‘Miserlou’. Wild !!! I wish I’d met him. But truly we all benefit from his trailblazing. Bri
Other high profile tributes came from Queen’s Brian May, who hailed Dale as “father of the surf guitar”.
“Check out his early hit ‘Miserlou’. Wild !!! I wish I’d met him. But truly we all benefit from his trailblazing,” he wrote.
Public Enemy rapper Chuck D added: “Dick Dale was dope.”
— Mike Mills 🍂🍁 (@m_millsey) March 17, 2019
Rest In Peace Dick Dale… True original, So Cal Surf, American icon and a gentlemen of the highest order. pic.twitter.com/G3Uw5Xk055
— Joe Bonamassa (Official) (@JBONAMASSA) March 17, 2019
Dick Dale was DoPE R.I.B
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) March 17, 2019