Dick Dale, Noteworthy Musician & Originator of Surf Music, Dies at Age 81


Richard Anthony Monsour, known by his stage name, Dick Dale, born May 4th, 1937 in Boston, Mass. died this weekend. Although many sources state he died sometime in the very early morning today, The Guardian, who first published the story and TMZ both have confirmed with Dale’s close friend and live bassist, Sam Bolle, that he indeed passed away late Saturday evening.

Dale has suffered from diabetes, rectal cancer, and a variety of other crippling health conditions over the years, and although no official cause of death has yet been confirmed, a variety of sources suggest that the renowned musical legend may have passed away from congestive heart failure. However, with the numerous debilitating health problems Dale endured there is no way of knowing exactly what caused his death until the autopsy report has been completed and the cause of death is confirmed and revealed to the public.

According to Rolling Stone, although Dale lived for his passion for music, sadly he toured up until his passing, not out of his love of music, but reportedly in order to pay for his painfully costly medical expenses. In an alarming interview with the Pittsburg City Paper in 2015 that went viral, Dale was suffering from renal failure and yet was still on the road constantly touring. In this interview, Dale told the paper, “I can’t stop touring because I will die,” and emphasized further stating, “Physically and literally, I will die.” He then explained further that on top of his monthly insurance payment, he had to come up with an additional $3,000 to pay for the other medical supplies he needed to survive.

Despite all of his afflictions and hardships, including his wife suffering from a chronic disorder herself, Dale remained positive with a strong will to live. He conveyed that through the following statements in that same interview, “You tell the people, ‘Don’t be scared of dying,’” he says. “When your mind leaves this body, it is a beautiful thing and it is not to be feared. Don’t let that fear of dying affect the way you live. You take that fear and you use it as a driving force to keep moving forward, no matter how much pain you have. That’s how I do what I do on stage. I’m not afraid to die because it all gets beautiful from here.”

Dick Dale, or as most refer to him, “The King of Surf Guitar”, no doubt played a momentous role in the field of music and his influential work prompted a whole new generation of musicians. He is most well-known as the pioneer of the surf rock genre of music, developing the style based on his love of surfing.  However, that is only one of his many accomplishments and unprecedented elements he contributed to the music world: He introduced a one-of-a-kind rapid-alternative style of guitar picking, aided in expanding the possibilities of using an electric guitar, played a central role in the development of the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, and, of course, one of his most infamous tracks, Misirlou, that was originally a traditional Greek folk song that Dale transformed and became a hit in 1962. The song was then later used as the opening music for the infamous film Pulp Fiction in 1994.

Additionally, Dale was named one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone in 2015.

One thing is without question, although Dick Dale has passed, his legacy will live on until the end of time.

“I don’t play pyrotechnic scales. I play about frustration, patience, anger. Music is an extension of my soul.” – Dick Dale, “King of Surf Guitar”

Written by Megan Kuehl


The Guardian: Dick Dale, godfather of surf guitar, dies aged 81
CALIFORNIA ROCKER: UPDATE: RIP Dick Dale, ‘King of the Surf Guitar’ Passes Away at 81
Rolling Stone: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Dead at 81
Consequence of Sound: R.I.P. Dick Dale, surf rock pioneer dead at 81
Pittsburg City Paper: At 78 and with myriad health issues, surf-rock legend Dick Dale plays through the pain

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Ralphman’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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