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NPR Arts & Life

Surf Guitar Legend Dick Dale Dies At 81

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Sorry to report that the king of surf guitar has died.

(SOUNDBITE OF DICK DALE'S "MISIRLOU")

INSKEEP: In 1962, "Misirlou," which we're hearing now, introduced music fans around the world to Dick Dale. This was a tune with staying power. It was heard decades later in the movie "Pulp Fiction."

(SOUNDBITE OF DICK DALE'S "MISIRLOU")

INSKEEP: Dick Dale died on Saturday at the age of 81 after fighting cancer and diabetes for many years. He was the master of surf music and a surfer himself who wanted his music to capture that experience, as he told Fresh Air in 1993.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DICK DALE: The waves did create my feelings of that sound, that ticka, ticka, ticka, ticka (ph). It was like the lip of a wave coming over the top of your head. It's a lacy sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF DICK DALE'S "MISIRLOU")

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

To find the sound he wanted, Dick Dale went to Leo Fender, the founder of Fender guitars. He gave Dale an early Stratocaster guitar. Dale played it in ways that destroyed every amp, every speaker Fender came up with, until the inventor went to one of Dale's shows.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DALE: Now I know what Dick's trying to tell me. So he went back to the drawing board and invented the Showman amplifier.

INSKEEP: Dick Dale's hand in guitar development, not to mention his lightning-fast picking, inspired many younger guitarists, and he kept playing through multiple illnesses, until his body finally gave out.

(SOUNDBITE OF DICK DALE'S "MISIRLOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.