Dick Dale Dead: Surf Guitar Legend Dies at 81

Getty Guitarist Dick Dale

Dick Dale has died. The guitarist and surf rock pioneer passed away on Saturday according to his bassist Sam Bolle. “He was an original, he always did things the way he wanted to do them, his own way,” Bolle told TMZ. “Long before punk rock, he was doing that.” Dale was 81.

While a cause of death has yet to be determined, Dale suffered from various ailments over the years; including rectal cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, and damaged vertebrae. In a 2015 interview with the Pittsburgh City Paper, Dale said that he continued to tour as a means of covering medical costs. “I have to raise $3,000 every month to pay for the medical supplies I need to stay alive, and that’s on top of the insurance that I pay for,” he revealed. “I can’t stop touring because I will die. Physically and literally, I will die.”

Dick Dale Died at Age 81 After a Lengthy Battle with Rectal Cancer

Dale, born Richard Anthony Monsour, was often referred to as “The King of the Surf Guitar.” His 1961 single “Let’s Go Trippin'” is widely credited as the first surf rock song, and gained traction on various California radio stations. Dale and his band the Del-Tones followed it up with a series of hits that included “Jungle Fever”, “Peppermint Man” and “Misirlou.” The latter would become Dale’s signature song, and would be used as the opening credits for the film Pulp Fiction.

Dale’s popularity waned as the British Invasion took stormed the music charts. He was diagnosed with rectal cancer in the mid-60s, which he would be forced to combat for the rest of his career. His diagnosis led to him retiring from the music business for nearly two decades. Dale eventually bounced back and released his comeback album The Tiger’s Loose in 1983. He continued to release music and tour up until his death.

Dale Is Hailed as ‘The King of the Surf Rock Guitar’ for His 1960s Music

Dale was an avid surfer in addition to being a musician, and he felt the two interests fed into one another. “There was a tremendous amount of power I felt while surfing and that feeling of power was simply transferred into my guitar when I was playing surf music,” he explained. “The style of music I developed, to me at the time, was the feeling I got when I was out there on the waves. It was good rambling feeling I got when I was locked in a tube with the white water caving in over my head. I was trying to project the power of the ocean to the people. I couldn’t get the feeling by singing, so the music took an instrumental form.”

Dale remained active late into his career. He regularly appeared on talk shows like Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Jimmy Kimmel Live! He also played himself on TV shows like Beverly Hills, 90210 and animated specials like Aloha, Scooby-Doo! He’s survived by his son Jimmy, who played in his band FCC, and his wife Lana, who was his tour manager.

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