News & Opinion | March 18, 2019 1:00 pm

Surf Guitar Legend Dick Dale Dead at 81

The soft rock pioneer died on Saturday.

Dick Dale
American surf rock guitarist Dick Dale (left) and thirteen year-old singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder performing, as themselves, in 'Muscle Beach Party', directed by William Asher, 1964. Dale died on Saturday at the age of 81. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
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Dick Dale, known as the surf guitar legend, has passed away at the age of 81.

Although the musician’s health had been declining for decades, no official cause of death was released.

The rocker had in recent years battled rectal cancer, kidney disease, and struggled with diabetes, NPR reports.

Dale created a unique guitar sound by upping the reverb on his guitar and then he applied the Arabic scales from Lebanon, where his father was born. The sound would go on to become heard in some of the most famous rock music.

“Dale pioneered a musical genre that Beach Boy Brian Wilson and others would later bring to fruition,” Rolling Stone said in its “Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll.”

Dale worked with the great guitar inventor Leo Fender: “I met a man called Leo Fender,” he told NPR, “who is the Einstein of the guitar and the amplifiers. He says, ‘Here, I just made a guitar, it’s a Stratocaster. You just beat it to death and tell me what you think. So when I started playing on that thing, I wanted to get it to be as loud as I could, like Gene Krupa drums. And as I was surfing, when the waves picked me up and took me through the tubes, I would get that rumble sound.”

Thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction, a generation of fans found Dale and “Misirlou,” a song that was featured on the hit film’s soundtrack, which sold over 3 million copies.