R.I.P. Dick Dodd of the Standells, the voice behind one of Boston’s most iconic songs, ‘Dirty Water’

Dick Dodd Featured

The voice behind one of Boston’s most iconic songs has died. Dick Dodd, singer and drummer of garage rock legends the Standells, passed away on Friday in California at the age of 68, a result of a long battle with cancer. The band’s 1965 hit “Dirty Water” is celebrated around the city of Boston, most notably as an anthem for our sports teams.

Despite being from the West Coast, Dodd’s popular refrain of “Oh, Boston, you’re my home” has resonated with generations of Bostonians; the song is played after every Red Sox victory at Fenway Park. The song itself is a bit of a piss-take, citing “frustrated women,” curfews, the Strangler, and “lovers, fuggers, and thieves.” But that hasn’t stopped Boston from embracing it.

Dodd was also a member of surf rock pioneers the Bel-Airs and Eddie and the Showmen.

In October, as the Sox were en route to another World Series victory, Dodd was hospitalized with stage four cancer of the esophagus, spleen, liver and spine. At the time, a GoFundMe page was set up to help with his medical costs; it had raised nearly $5,000.

Over the weekend, the page’s curator, Peggi Collins, posted the following note:

It is with a heavy heart…

It is with a heavy heart that I have to report that Dickie lost his battle last night. He had contracted pneumonia and just wasn’t strong enough to fight it. Please remember him in your prayers and consider adding to this fund which his family desperately needs to offset the great expense of his illness.

Of course, Dodd was more than just the voice of “Dirty Water.” The Los Angeles Times published a comprehensive obituary on the famed musician over the weekend; here are some highlights:

Dick Dodd, a Mouseketeer on Disney’s original “Mickey Mouse Club” who went on to become a surf music pioneer and a youth-quaking garage rock showman, died Friday in a Fountain Valley hospital, said his close friend, Tim Ferrill. Dodd was 68.

Born Joseph Richard Dodd Jr. on Oct. 27, 1945, in Hermosa Beach, Dodd cultivated an interest in singing, dancing and performing as a young boy. In 1955, at the age of 9, he was cast on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” the beloved television variety show that came to epitomize post-war America, alongside series regulars such as Annette Funicello and Cubby O’Brien. On the show, he was the Mouseketeer known as Dickie.

In the early 1960s, Dodd was a member of two of the earliest and most influential surf rock bands — the Bel-Airs, which nabbed a hit with the 1961 instrumental “Mr. Moto,” and Eddie and the Showmen, which performed on the same bill as some of the luminaries of the era including the Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher and the Righteous Brothers.

[I]n 1964, Dodd took a musical left turn out of the mainstream to become drummer-vocalist in the garage rock band the Standells, known primarily for their popular single “Dirty Water.” Recorded in 1965, it became the Standells’ first and only hit, peaking at No. 11 on the national singles chart. And with its unforgettable refrain, “Boston, you’re my home,” the song held a special renown in Beantown where it’s still an anthem for its sports teams, including the Red Sox baseball team and hockey-playing Bruins.

The Standells also went on to provide a soundtrack to the clash between counter-culture revelers and the establishment in 1967 with Dodd singing their second best-known song, “Riot on Sunset Strip,” on camera during the opening credits of a low-budget exploitation movie of the same name.


Dick Dodd

  • ClydeMcFatter

    It’s always sad to see someone go, but the Standells were basically an exercise in bad faith. A slick, boring lounge act, they hated “Dirty Water” and the rough, punk-ish direction it precipitated, not to mention that they had never set fucking foot in Boston. They thought it would cost them whatever meager following they had.

    Of course, when it was a minor hit, they embraced it and acted like nothing ever happened. They kept the lie alive for forty years, and for some reason Boston treated these frauds like conquering heroes.

    • Standells

      Clyde: What utter and complete nonsense, and we might add very disrespectful of Dick at this time. If the Standells were a ‘lounge act’, so were the Beatles. Many groups worked nightclubs back in those days, wore suits, and did cover songs. Would you also go after Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon for playing Bostonians in Fever Pitch? Or Johnny Rivers for not being from Memphis Tennessee? Where did you get your information about “Dirty Water”? The group didn’t like the song in its original form, so they changed it into what it became. They always loved the song. “Dirty Water” came pretty close to another song “Big Boss Man” which was recorded by the Standells for VeeJay Records almost a year before their famous hit. Of course, it’s always easy to sit back and be an armchair critic. BTW: Clyde McPhatter was loved by both the Standells and the Beatles.

      • ClydeMcFatter

        I hardly expect the band’s official mouthpiece to be a reliable source for unbiased information. And don’t point me to “reference” sites that are editable by any and everyone. These are hardly trustworthy sources.

        Of course musicians have the right to transcend their experience and sing about things they have no experience of…it’s called imagination, and it’s a beautiful thing. But did Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon continue to live their parts off-screen? It sure seems like the Standells did.

        • Standells

          Dick Dodd was a rabid fan of the Red Sox for many years before the 2004 World Series. He participated in the Red Sox Children’s Foundation, and was always there when they’ve needed him. The Standells have been in attendance every year the Sox have won the W.S., including 2013, plus the group has appeared at numerous charity events for the team. You certainly have a right to voice your opinion, but don’t have the right to dishonor our fallen hero, or create your own set of ‘facts’. BTW: The Red Sox Nation extends throughout the world. “Dirty Water” was deemed the “Official Red Sox Anthem” by the MA General Court, by proclamation. It has brought comfort to many after the Boston bombings, and continues to be tied to the city of Boston. It was used in a campaign to clean up the Charles River. It is played during tours of the city, and in spite of the many other songs about in Boston, continues to be a favorite in Boston. The Standells have a new album out called “Bump” which has been receiving praise from fans and critics alike. One song in it is titled “Boston’s Badass”, which we are certain you will diss as well. This will not detour the Standells from their love of the city, nor in calling “Boston” their 2nd home.

          • ClydeMcFatter

            Yes, those are all facts. But none of them even begin to address the Standells’ widespread reputation among Bostonians and music fans for being shameless, opportunist turncoats who, after seeing the success of something they didn’t care for, quickly changed their tune and embraced it anyway. But yeah, they certainly deserve the right to make a living. Comparing them to the Beatles and calling them heroes is patently absurd, however.

            Also, I scour the music press pretty obsessively (which is why I’m reading this semi-obscure blog), and have read NO reviews of this “BUMP” you speak of.

            But hey, I’m just one guy. I’m sure a stadium full of New England dirtbags will disagree with me. ROCK ON.

        • Standells

          You’re now speaking directly with Standells co-founder Larry Tamblyn. Out of the hundreds of obits regarding Dick, our administrator noticed some outright disrespectful and insensitive comments on this one. This is the only reason she responded. You certainly have every right to dislike the Standells, although your source material is rather suspect. This, however, is not the time or place to discuss this. I’ve asked her to discontinue communication. I sincerely hope that a loved one of yours never succumbs to stage 4 esophageal cancer – it’s a shitty way to go.

  • Standells

    Nice cut and paste from Richie Unterburger’s All Music Guide, written in the 1980’s, which has long since been discredited. The Standells were told by Universal Studios that they had to perform “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in order to perform on the Munsters. This show was done approximately one year before “Dirty Water” was recorded. They were also told that every group member had to sing (several couldn’t), and it was recorded under dreadful conditions on a studio sound stage, with one mic. He also stated that the Standells were ‘squeaky clean’ until they met Cobb, who changed their image; an untruth. If you visit the Standells Facebook page, you will see 1963 photos of the Standells with long hair. In 1964, the group was forced to cut it off to play in most nightclubs. Even so, several group members kept their locks on the long side, compared to many other performers of the time. Ever watch the old Shindig shows? Finally, in 1965, they were allowed to grow their hair out.

    The Standells were always a hard rock group, but unfortunately due to being paired up with several hack producers, were forced to do some pretty awful material, like that of Sony Bono’s “The Boy Next Door”, which the group is still embarrassed about today. However, some gems did manage to slip through, like “Big Boss Man”. “The Standells Live at P.J.s” was actually a pretty good representation of the kinds of music the group did. However, even that was tampered with by Liberty producer Dick Glasser. He sped it up by about 5%, thinking it would be more exciting. It’s a well-known fact that the Standells have inspired such groups as Guns ‘N Roses and the Ramones. “Dirty Water” was sung at the Boston Strong concerts by the likes of Steven Tyler and the Dropkick Murphy’s many of whom paid tribute to the Standells.”Their songs have been covered by Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and U2 to Spacemen 3, Minor Threat and a million ’77 punk bands as well as many subsequent scene bands.” – Pat Long, the Guardian
    Again, you’re welcome to express your opinion, but please check your source material first.

    • ClydeMcFatter

      …point me to one reliable third-party source who is not a puppet for the band, please.

  • Standells

    “Dodd, Valentino and Tamblyn have claimed
    substantial material-of-fact song composition copyright contributions to it as
    well as contributing to its arrangement. According to critic Richie Unterberger.“

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Standells

    The “Dirty Water” album cover lists members of
    the Standells as having arranged the music for the album.

    Much of this was covered in the book “Love That Dirty Water – the Standells and the Improbable Red Sox Victory Anthem” available on Amazon.com

    Finally, who would know more about the Standells, than the group itself? Of course, you. Now, please provide some of your source material.

    • ClydeMcFatter

      Wikipedia is not a source that can stand up to ANY scrutiny, as anyone with two brain cells and a computer can alter it.

      Who doesn’t know the difference between publicity and historical research? Of course, you.

      • Standells

        You’re now speaking directly with Standells co-founder Larry Tamblyn. Please see the above post. There won’t be any more discussion about this. This is neither the time or place for such dialog.

        • Crickett Haskell

          Thank you Larry Tamblyn for shutting this mouthpiece up! Dickie was the Best of all of us – you might remember me from 60’s-70’s days! Dickie was one of my closest friends and I called his mother “Mom” as well. I am devastated by the news of his passing! He was always one of the good guys!

        • Scott Aaronson

          I’m sorry for your loss, Larry, and I’m sure much of Boston grieves with you. Sounds like Dick was a cool guy.

          But Dick was also an artist, and what better time to consider the legacy of an artist than at his or her death? The Standells always had a troubled legacy, whether in fact or in myth, and I’m glad to see a discussion happen, even if it does seem a little extreme.

          Oh, and please, don’t feed the trolls. It’s best to just not engage the haters. Your administrator was clearly in over his/her head on this one, and I hope he or she has learned something.

    • Fact Checkerman

      The wikipedia entry you mention sites the same Richie Unterberger bio that you say is factually inaccurate. Make up your mind.