“Misirlou” is a traditional song from the Eastern Mediterranean region. The earliest known recording of the song is a 1927 Greek rebetiko / tsifteteli composition influenced by Middle Eastern music. There are also traditional Arabic (belly dancing), Armenian, Persian, Indian, and Turkish versions of the song. This song was very popular from the 1920s in the ethnic Greek and Armenian communities of the Ottoman Empire diaspora who settled in the United States of America.
The song was a hit in 1946 for Jan August, an American pianist and xylophonist nicknamed “the one-man piano duet”. It gained worldwide popularity through Dick Dale’s 1962 American surf rock version, originally titled “Miserlou”, which popularized the song in Western popular culture. Various versions have since been recorded, including other surf and rock versions by bands such as the Beach Boys, the Ventures, Consider the Source, and the Trashmen, as well as international orchestral easy listening (exotica) versions by musicians such as Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. Dale’s surf rock version later gained renewed popularity when director Quentin Tarantino used it in his 1994 film Pulp Fiction, and again when it was sampled in the Black Eyed Peas song “Pump It” (2006). The Martin Denny cover also helped the song resurge in popularity, when it was sampled inthe Season 2 episode of Mad Men, “The Jet Set”. A cover of Dale’s surf rock version was included on the Guitar Hero II video game released in 2006