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Title: Dick Dale, a Great American Original, RIP
Source: Reason
URL Source: https://reason.com/blog/2019/03/18/ ... -a-great-american-original-rip
Published: Mar 18, 2019
Author: Nick Gillespie
Post Date: 2019-03-19 04:57:17 by Deckard
Ping List: *Music*     Subscribe to *Music*
Keywords: None
Views: 99
Comments: 13

The king of surf guitar transformed music (and himself) in a quintessentially American way.

Dick Dale was born in Boston in 1937 as Richard Anthony Mansour, but he died on Saturday as "The King of the Surf Guitar." His life encapsulates so much that is great about America, especially our part-mythic, part-real ability to invent and re-invent who we want to be. It's fantastic, and totally to-be-expected, that a son of the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe ended up creating one of the most purely "American" strains of popular music. That's worth pondering, especially in a moment when xenophobia is on the rise.

Mike Burns - Flickr: Dick Dale, Creative Commons

Dale was Lebanese on his father's side, Polish and Belorussian on his mother's. He became entranced by Hank Williams as a kid and his paternal uncle bought him a tarabaki and an oud, a Middle Eastern drum and stringed instrument respectively, and he started developing a highly personal guitar style in which he used the guitar as both a lead and percussive instrument.

His family moved to Southern California in the mid-1950s and Dale started blending Middle Eastern music with rock and country. Along the way, he was christened Dick Dale by "Texas Tiny" Cherry, himself a short-lived, 640-pound country music legend. Dale didn't just reinvent himself and popular music styles. He also reinvented the technology to play rock, country, surf, you name it, by helping Leo Fender perfect the first 100-watt guitar amplifier that was not just incredibly loud but precise and durable.

In the early 1960s, Dale became a sensation but, as in all rock stories, tragedy was just a beat or two away. Surf music became a craze and took a hit from the British invasion (even as the Brits developed bands like The Shadows to co-opt American surf). He contracted rectal cancer, stopped touring and recording, and became a club owner. (In the liner notes to the anthology Better Shred than Dead, he claims that Jimi Hendrix's line in the psychedelic classic "Third Stone from the Sun" that "you'll never hear surf music again" was a lament over his impending death.)

Even if he somewhat disappeared from the scene, his guitar and sensibility completely infused West Coast punk. If the Ramones on the East Coast were essentially a tribute band to early '60s girl groups, California punks ranging from X to the Dead Kennedys to the Angry Samoans and beyond were doing an ironized-yet-serious homage to Dick Dale. He bottomed out in 1986, after another serious health scare and a bankruptcy, but in 1987 scored a comeback hit with a version of "Pipeline," recorded for Back to the Beach, a winking call-back to '60s-era beach movies starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon as parents and a young Lori Loughlin (now best known for buying her daughter's way into USC) as their kid. His 1963 hit "Misirlou" was used in the opening for Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), reigniting his career in a major way. He toured and recorded ever since, despite a recurrence of rectal cancer that made playing both a necessity to pay his medical bills as well as a physical torment. In 2015, he told Pittsburgh City Paper,

"People come to my shows and they show me their scars. I've had paralyzed kids come in on gurneys because they want to see me, and I take time to talk with all of them," he says. "I met a man who was sick and dying, and began talking with him on the phone. He said, 'Dick, you're my idol and I plan to outlive these hospice workers if I have to, but I will be at your show.' And he was.

"I get that. Because I was told 20 years ago that I wouldn't live much longer, but here I am. I believe our maker has kept [wife] Lana and I alive to give hope. We're like Johnny Appleseed, crossing the country and sowing the seeds of survival."

Characters like Dale do more than sow "seeds of survival," of course. If American freedom means anything, it means the ability not simply to persist but to reinvent oneself into some bizarre melange of everything that came before us while alchemizing the past into something unique and different and lovely, which in turn becomes the next generation's base material that it will in turn transmute into some new gold.

Like Prince and David Bowie, Dale was an emissary from a future we didn't know was possible until he invented it. There's no going back to the precise moment or forces that produced Dick Dale and his early hits, which were suffused with a sense of danger, optimism, and adventure. Though there is a vibrant subculture of neo-surf bands, we can't make surf music great again, and we (and he) wouldn't want to. But we can the use example of the former Richard Mansour to create a future that is as loud, lovely, and inviting as the music he played even when in excruciating pain.

Here's a 1995 live version of "Misirlou":

Photo Credit: Mike Burns - Flickr: Dick Dale, Creative Commons

    Nick Gillespie is an editor at large at Reason. (1 image)

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    #1. To: Deckard (#0)

    Autotune THAT mudderfockers.
    RIP, Dick.

    Hank Rearden  posted on  2019-03-19   10:32:52 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #2. To: Hank Rearden (#1)

    Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, Link Wray (loved his work with Robert Gordon)

    Pioneers who showed the sonic possibilities of electric guitar.

    Computer Hope

    Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
    The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
    Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

    Deckard  posted on  2019-03-19   10:47:30 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #3. To: Hank Rearden, Deckard (#1)

    Liberator  posted on  2019-03-19   10:53:03 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #4. To: All (#3)

    0:52: The Beave and Wally

    Liberator  posted on  2019-03-19   10:56:49 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #5. To: Deckard (#2)

    Yup. That's Lori Loughlin @ the 1:49 mark.

    Liberator  posted on  2019-03-19   10:59:56 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #6. To: Liberator (#3)

    Hadn't heard that version of Pipeline before - thanks!

    Computer Hope

    Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
    The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
    Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

    Deckard  posted on  2019-03-19   11:15:27 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #7. To: Liberator, Hank Rearden (#3)

    Notice anything unusual about Stevie Ray's Guitar?

    Computer Hope

    Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
    The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
    Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

    Deckard  posted on  2019-03-19   11:25:35 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #8. To: Deckard (#2)

    I bought the Gordon/Wray LPs when they first hit the stores; that's just how old I am. Still have those old vinyls (in storage along with 2,000+ more) as well as CDs (also stored; everything's ripped to the server and the Sony portable player).

    Hank Rearden  posted on  2019-03-19   11:54:25 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #9. To: Deckard (#7) (Edited)

    Notice anything unusual about Stevie Ray's Guitar?

    Tuning machines on the "wrong" side - is that a leftie guitar? The body of the Strat looks normal to me, but I'm not a guitar player even though I own a MexiStrat.
    Saw Stevie a couple times; man, talent like that is sorely missed, gone way too soon.

    Hank Rearden  posted on  2019-03-19   11:56:36 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #10. To: Hank Rearden (#9)

    Tuning machines on the "wrong" side - is that a leftie guitar?

    The guitar body is a normal right handed one, but the neck is from a left-handed guitar with the tuning pegs on the bottom.

    Never noticed Stevie Ray playing one like that before - must be custom made.

    Computer Hope

    Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
    The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
    Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

    Deckard  posted on  2019-03-19   12:43:35 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #11. To: Hank Rearden (#8)

    I bought the Gordon/Wray LPs when they first hit the stores;

    That's the good stuff. I still can't wrap my mind around Link Wray spending decades playing for peanuts in small clubs when he was clearly one of the best guitar players to have ever lived.

    Out of all the albums I own,the early 70's release titled "Link Wray Rumble" is my favorite.

    In the entire history of the world,the only nations that had to build walls to keep their own citizens from leaving were those with leftist governments.

    sneakypete  posted on  2019-03-22   10:18:52 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #12. To: Deckard (#7)

    Notice anything unusual about Stevie Ray's Guitar?

    Stevie Ray was something special,too.

    Anytime you hear about a 14 year old white boy being invited back stage to jam with B.B King,that boy has a future torturing guitar strings

    In the entire history of the world,the only nations that had to build walls to keep their own citizens from leaving were those with leftist governments.

    sneakypete  posted on  2019-03-22   10:21:33 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


    #13. To: sneakypete (#12)

    Anytime you hear about a 14 year old white boy being invited back stage to jam with B.B King,that boy has a future torturing guitar strings

    12-Year-old Joe Bonamassa Opens for B.B King in 1989 — Video

    Joe Bonamassa "SWLABR" British Blues Explosion Live

    Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
    The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
    Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

    Deckard  posted on  2019-03-22   10:40:27 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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