Guitarist Dick Dale, whose signature reverb-heavy instrumentals inaugurated the surf-rock wave of the 1950s and ‘60s, passed away on Saturday at the age of 81. Dale’s bassist Sam Bolle confirmed his death to the Guardian this weekend. Born Richard Anthony Monsour, Dale’s most well-known song is likely the 1962 hit “Misirlou,” a rock version of a traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern folk song and an example of the influence Dale’s Lebanese heritage had on his music. The song is also immediately recognizable from the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction.
Fronted by the founding father of surf guitar, Dick Dale & His Del-Tones helped shape the Southern California pop-music scene and appeared in early ‘60s beach movies like 1963’s Beach Party and 1964’s Muscle Beach Party. Their biggest single, “Let’s Go Trippin,’’ however, topped out at number 60 on the Billboard charts. In spite of, and because of, several serious health problems including rectal cancer and diabetes, Dale continued to tour up until his death as a financial necessity. “Sure, I’d love to stay home and build ships in a bottle and spend time with my wife in Hawaii, but I have to perform to save my life,” he told Pittsburg City Paper in an interview. “I’ve been living like this for the past 15 years, but I’m still here and opening my eyes each morning.”