Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

A hit with “Pulp Fiction” kidnapped millions! The disease destroyed Dick Dale’s life

Born in 1937 in Boston (although for some time his biographies stated that he was born in Beirut) Dick Dale he had contact with music from the first years of his life. It was all thanks to his father, of Lebanese origin, who, together with other family members, played popular songs from the Middle East in a local band. What is also worth noting, Dale’s mother had Polish roots. Dale was his real name Richard Monsour.

From an early age, Dale watched adults playing Lebanese melodies. Thanks to this, he quickly became familiar with the tarabaki and the ouda (an instrument resembling a lute). Playing these instruments inspired the musician to create his own, unique style. His work was influenced by one more thing – surfing. He moved to California when he was 17.

Dale wanted his music to reflect what was in his head when he was on his board and fighting the waves. All this led to the left-handed guitarist creating a unique style of playing the instrument. His trademark was playing the effect quickly “staccato”. It is worth adding that for some time Dale played right-handed guitar. However, he did not decide to modify it, as Hendrix did, and played it the other way round.

The guitarist quickly gained recognition. Beginning in July 1961, he performed at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California, where thousands of people (mostly surfers) went wild at his performances with the group Del-Tones.

“I remember going to Rendezvous in the summer of 1961 to see what all the fuss about Dick Dale was about. It was an amazing experience. His music was very dynamic, louder and more refined than what we played. The energy that was generated between Del-Tonesand surfers dancing in only sandals, was extremely intense” – he said Paul Johnsonmember of the group The Bel-Airs.

In 1961, Dale and his colleagues created the first surf rock song with the title “Let’s Go Trippin'”. This hit along with “Jungle Fever” and “Surf Beat” was included on Dick and Del-Tones’ debut album entitled “Surfers’ Choice” from 1962.

Shortly after its release, Dale and his friends recorded the biggest hit and a song that became a symbol of surf rock – “Misirlou” (initially named “Miserlou”). Interestingly, the guitarist became more of a popularizer of the composition than its original creator. “Misirlou” it is a melody that has been known for years in the Middle East, and Dale only decided to improve it and present it to a wider audience in the USA.

The song itself was also created somewhat by accident – it was the result of a bet between Dale and one of his fans. The musician was accused of not being able to play only one string. The creator remembered that his family members played the game “Misirlou” just like that. Dale used the same technique and picked up the pace.

A song that was included on the second album of the guitarist and his band – “King of the Surf Guitar” – it became an instant hit. In the following years, she also inspired other stars – including: The Beach Boys, Black Eyed Peasand gave the hit a second youth Quentin Tarantinowho used the song in his film “Pulp Fiction”. The composition in the timeless production appears for less than a minute at the beginning of the film and catches the viewer’s attention. The director himself described what was happening at that time as follows: “this song gives the film a challenge that it must meet”.

What happened after the release of the second album with Dick Dale and his friends? First of all, their music came at a bad time. In the mid-1960s, America witnessed “British invasion”. They replaced the beach boys The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and many other bands from across the Atlantic.

Dale himself was in failing health. He contracted colon cancer, which he fought for several years. At that time, he suspended his musical activities. He resumed his career only in the 1980s. In 1988, with Stevie Ray Vaughan Dale was nominated for a Grammy Award for his music for the film “Back to the Beach”. The following years were a time for the musician to record further albums and concerts. However, none of them made it wider.

Despite his intense career, Dale never made a fortune. Financial problems became apparent when the guitarist’s health deteriorated again. The musician has been a supporter of a healthy lifestyle since his youth. He stayed away from all stimulants, in the 1970s he eliminated red meat from his diet, and also practiced martial arts. But that didn’t stop Dale from having serious problems.

A forgotten star who was placed by in 2015 “Rolling Stone” among the hundred best guitarists of all time, in addition to fighting cancer (part of his large intestine was removed, which is why he wore a special bag for excretory contents under his clothes), he suffered from diabetes and kidney failure.

In 2016, he admitted that he would like to retire, but his financial situation did not allow him to do so. In a conversation with “Pittsburgh City Paper” he said: “I can’t stop performing. When I finish my career, I will simply die”.

“Every month I have to pay three thousand dollars for medicines and special accessories that allow me to live. At the hospital, they advised me to change my ostomy bag once a week. However, if I do not do it twice a day, it may become infected, which causes great pain. This has happened to me in the past when I didn’t follow doctors’ orders” – Dale explained.

After many years of struggling with health problems, Dale died in 2019 at the age of 81.