Dion DiMucci

Dion DiMucci
Dion DiMucci
Background information
Birth name Dion Francis DiMucci
Also known as Dion
Born July 18, 1939 (1939-07-18) (age 72)
The Bronx, New York, United States
Origin Italian-American
Genres Rock, pop, doo-wop, R&B, blues
Occupations Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1957–present
Labels Laurie, Arista, Mohawk, Columbia, ABC, Warner Brothers, Dayspring
Associated acts Dion and the Belmonts, Dion and the Del-Satins, The Timberlanes, The Wanderers
Website http://www.diondimucci.com/
Notable instruments

Dion Francis DiMucci (born July 18, 1939), better known as Dion, is an American singer-songwriter whose work has incorporated elements of doo-wop, pop oldies music, rock and R&B styles.

One of the most popular American rock and roll performers of the pre-British Invasion era, Dion had over a dozen Top 40 hits in the late 1950s and early 60s. He is best remembered for the 1961 singles "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer".

Due to changing public tastes and personal problems, Dion faltered in the mid-1960s; he regained popularity later in the decade and into the early 1970s with more mature, contemplative material such as "Abraham, Martin & John". He has continued making music to the present, earning reappraisals from critics who earlier dismissed him as a teen idol.[1]

This artist was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.


Early years

Dion was born to an Italian-American family in the Bronx, New York.[2] As a child, he used to accompany his father, a vaudeville entertainer, on tour, and developed a love of country music – particularly Hank Williams – as well as a fondness for the blues and doo-wop stars he heard in local bars and on the radio. His singing was honed on the street corners and local clubs of the Bronx, where he and other neighborhood singers created a cappella licks.

In early 1957, he auditioned for Bob and Gene Schwartz, who had just formed Mohawk Records. They recorded him with a vocal group, The Timberlanes, and released a single "The Chosen Few", arranged by Hugo Montenegro, which became a minor regional hit.


With the Belmonts, 1957-1960

Bob and Gene Schwartz also signed Dion's friends, The Belmonts, a vocal group named for nearby Belmont Avenue, and teamed them, with Dion singing lead. The new group's breakthrough came in early 1958, when "I Wonder Why" (on their newly formed "Laurie" label) made No. 22 on the U.K. charts, followed by "No One Knows" and "Don't Pity Me", which also charted.

This success won Dion and the Belmonts a place on the "The Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) and others. On February 2, 1959, after a concert stop in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly and others decided to take a flight to the next venue rather than travel on the tour bus. Dion was invited to accompany the group but decided that he could not afford the cost of the $36 flight, as it was the same monthly rent his parents paid for his childhood apartment and he couldn't justify the indulgence.[3] The plane crashed, killing all aboard, including Holly, Valens and Richardson. Dion and The Belmonts continued on the tour, along with replacements Jimmy Clanton and Bobby Vee.

Dion and the Belmonts' next single, "A Teenager in Love", was released in March 1959, eventually hitting No. 5 on the U.S. pop charts and No. 28 in the UK.[4] The trio's biggest hit, "Where or When", was released in November of that year, and reached No. 3 on the U.S. charts. However, in early 1960, Dion checked in to hospital for heroin addiction, a problem he had had since his mid-teens.[citation needed] Further single releases for the group that year were less successful. There were musical, personal and financial differences between Dion and members of the Belmonts, and in October 1960, Dion decided to quit for a solo career.

Solo stardom, 1960-1964

By the end of 1960, Dion had released his first solo album on Laurie, Alone with Dion, and the single "Lonely Teenager", which rose to No. 12 in the US charts. The name on his solo releases was simply "Dion". Follow-ups "Havin’ Fun" and "Kissin’ Game" had less success, and the signs were that Dion would drift onto the cabaret circuit. However, he then recorded, with new vocal group The Del-Satins, an up-tempo number co-written with Ernie Maresca. The record, "Runaround Sue", stormed up the U.S. charts, reaching No. 1 in October 1961, and No. 11 in the UK,[4] where he also toured. "Runaround Sue" sold over a million copies, achieving gold disc status.[5]

For the next single, Laurie promoted the A-side, "The Majestic", but it was the B-side, Maresca’s "The Wanderer", which received more radio play and climbed swiftly up the charts to reach No. 2 in the U.S. in February 1962 and No. 10 in the UK (the 1976 re-release made the UK Top 20).[4]

By the end of 1961, Dion had become a major star, touring worldwide and making an appearance in the Columbia Pictures musical film Twist Around the Clock. He followed with a string of singles – "Lovers Who Wander" (No. 3), "Little Diane" (No. 8), "Love Came To Me" (No. 10) - in 1962, several of which he wrote or co-wrote. He also had successful albums with Runaround Sue and Lovers Who Wander.

At the end of 1962, Dion moved from Laurie to Columbia Records. The first Columbia single, Leiber and Stoller’s "Ruby Baby" (originally a hit for The Drifters) reached No. 2, while "Donna the Prima Donna" and "Drip Drop" (another cover of a Drifters hit) both reached No. 6 in late 1963. (Dion also recorded an Italian version of "Donna the Prima Donna" using the identical backup vocals.) His other Columbia releases were less successful, and problems with his addiction and changing public tastes saw a period of commercial decline.

Changing fortunes, 1964-1968

Following a European tour, Dion returned to the U.S. and was introduced to classic blues by Columbia’s John Hammond. To the consternation of his management, he began recording more blues-oriented material, including Willie Dixon’s "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Spoonful", but these releases – some produced by Tom Wilson, with Al Kooper on keyboards - were not commercially successful. In 1965, still with Columbia, Dion formed a new group to back him, The Wanderers, comprising John Falbo on guitar, Pete Baron (Pete Falciglia) on bass, and Carlo Mastrangelo of The Belmonts on drums. A number of self-penned tracks were recorded and released unsuccessfully as singles, but were not released in album format.

In 1966, Dion briefly reunited with The Belmonts for the album Together Again on ABC Records. The album bombed, despite one classic self-penned song, "My Girl The Month Of May". Although by this stage Dion’s career appeared to be nearing an end, he retained enough credibility to be, along with Bob Dylan, featured on the album cover of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967.

In April 1968, Dion experienced what he identified as a powerful religious experience. After getting clean once again from heroin addiction, an experience he documented in his 1970 song "Your Own Backyard", he approached Laurie Records for a new contract. They agreed on condition that he record the song "Abraham, Martin & John", written by Dick Holler (also the writer of The Royal Guardsmen’s "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron") in response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and those of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy during the summer of 1968. The success of this song – later recorded by many others including Marvin Gaye – which reached # 4 in the US charts and #1 in Canada, resuscitated Dion’s career. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[5]

The mature period, 1968-1986

For the next few years, Dion’s music became radically different, moving to more contemplative and mature material. He released several albums essentially as a singer-songwriter, to moderate sales, moving to the Warner Brothers label in 1969.

There followed a one-off live reunion show with the Belmonts at Madison Square Garden in 1972, released on album. This was followed in 1975 by the album Born To Be With You, produced by Phil Spector. The album was a commercial failure, but has been subsequently praised by such artists as Jason Pierce of Spiritualized and Pete Townshend of The Who.[citation needed]

In 1978 Dion released an album drawing on many of his teenage influences, Return of the Wanderer, another commercial failure. In December 1979 there was a radical spiritual change in Dion, who had become a born-again Christian.[6] Thereafter, his recordings for several years were in a contemporary Christian vein, in which he released a number of albums on the Dayspring label reflecting his evangelical Christian convictions. Singles were successfully released to Christian radio, notably "Still in the Spirit" from his 1985 release entitled Kingdom in the Streets.

In 1984 he won the Dove Award (Christian Music Award) for the album 'I Put Away My Idols'. He was also nominated for Grammy Award, best male Gospel performance, for the same album.

Recent work

In 1987 Dion agreed to do a concert of his old hits at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The two disc CD of this concert was released in 2005, featuring concert photos by Dion's friend, Michael J. Friedman. This concert helped free him to celebrate both his past and his future, and led to a series of special appearances, including a fundraiser for homeless medical relief. There he shared the stage with fans such as Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Lou Reed, all of whom cited Dion as one of their prime influences.

In 1988 Dion's autobiography (co-authored by Davin Seay) titled The Wanderer: Dion's Story was published. In the following year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the induction speech being given by Lou Reed.

In 1989 he returned to rock music with the contemporary album Yo Frankie, which included appearances by Paul Simon, Lou Reed, k.d. lang, Patty Smyth and Bryan Adams.[7] Produced by Dave Edmunds (who also played guitar on the album), "Yo Frankie has a sharp sound while never losing sight of Dion's soulful, doo-wop voice."[1] Overall, "the relevant and nostalgic statement from an artist who helped forge rock & roll's first wave" found his way back on radio and in music videos during this period (both on VH-1 and MTV), as well as touring.[8][9][10][11]

In the late 1990s, Dion visited his old Bronx parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and returned to Catholicism.[12]

Since then, Dion has released several albums with contemporary rock artists. His Déjà Nu album in 2000 found him covering Bruce Springsteen, a major follower over the years. Dion joined Springsteen onstage in Miami in 2002 for a performance of "If I Should Fall Behind" from Dream On Fire.

He joined Scott Kempner of The Del-Lords and Mike Mesaros of The Smithereens in a short-lived band called Little Kings. A live album was later released, but not widely circulated or promoted.

In 2002 he was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for "Runaround Sue". Dion continues to perform songs from his albums live.[13]

In January 2006, he released Bronx in Blue, an album of blues and country standards, which was nominated for a Grammy. In November 2007 he issued a follow-up in similar vein, Son of Skip James.

In October 2008, he released Heroes: Giants of Early Guitar Rock, an album of his covers of early rock and roll songs he considers seminal to the genre.[14] The album includes versions of songs originally recorded by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash and many other early rock guitarists.[15]

Now a practicing Roman Catholic, Dion pursues prison ministry and reaches out to men going through addiction recovery. He is also a member of the American Board of Directors of Renewal Ministries.[16] He currently lives in Boca Raton, Florida, and New York City.

Albums (non-compilation)

  • 1959: Presenting Dion & The Belmonts
  • 1960: Wish Upon a Star With Dion & The Belmonts
  • 1961: Alone With Dion
  • 1961: Runaround Sue #11
  • 1962: Lovers Who Wander #12
  • 1962: Love Came to Me
  • 1963: Dion Sings to Sandy' (and all his other gals)' #115
  • 1963: Ruby Baby #20
  • 1963: Donna the Prima Donna
  • 1964: 60 Greatest of Dion & The Belmonts - Laurie Records - SLP-6000 (3 records set)
  • 1967: Dion & The Belmonts - Together Again
  • 1968: Dion #128
  • 1969: Wonder Where I'm Bound
  • 1970: Sit Down Old Friend
  • 1971: You're Not Alone
  • 1971: Sanctuary #200
  • 1972: Suite For Late Summer #197
  • 1973: Dion & The Belmonts - Reunion, Live at Madison Square Garden #144
  • 1975: Born to Be With You
  • 1976: Streetheart
  • 1978: Return of the Wanderer
  • 1980: Inside Job
  • 1981: Only Jesus
  • 1983: I Put Away My Idols CCM #37
  • 1984: Seasons
  • 1985: Kingdom in the Streets
  • 1986: Velvet & Steel
  • 1989: Yo Frankie #130
  • 1990: Fire in the Night (recorded 1979)
  • 1992: Dream on Fire
  • 1993: Rock 'n' Roll Christmas
  • 2000: Déjà Nu
  • 2003: New Masters
  • 2005: Live New York City
  • 2006: Bronx in Blue #2 Blues Lps.
  • 2007: Son of Skip James #4 Blues Lps.
  • 2008: Heroes: Giants of Early Guitar Rock [17]

Chart singles

Release date Title US record label Chart Positions
US Hot 100 US AC UK Singles Chart[4] US R&B
Dion and the Belmonts
1958 "I Wonder Why" Laurie 22
1958 "No One Knows" Laurie 19 12
"Don't Pity Me" Laurie 40
1959 "A Teenager in Love" Laurie 5 28
"A Lover's Prayer" Laurie 73
"Every Little Thing I Do" Laurie 48
1960 "Where or When" Laurie 3 19
"Little Miss Blue" Laurie 96
"When You Wish Upon a Star" Laurie 30
"In The Still of the Night Laurie 38
"Lonely Teenager" Laurie 12 47
1961 "Havin’ Fun" Laurie 42
"Kissin’ Game” Laurie 82
"Somebody Nobody Wants" Laurie 103
"Runaround Sue" Laurie 1 11 4
"The Wanderer" Laurie 2 10
(also 16, 1976)
"The Majestic" Laurie 36
1962 "Lovers Who Wander" Laurie 3 16
"Little Diane" Laurie 8
"(I Was) Born to Cry" Laurie 42
"Love Came to Me" Laurie 10 24
"Ruby Baby" Columbia 2
1963 "Sandy" Laurie 21
"This Little Girl" Columbia 21
"Come Go With Me" Laurie 48
"Be Careful of Stones That You Throw" Columbia 31
"Lonely World" Laurie 101
"Donna the Prima Donna" Columbia 6 17
"Drip Drop" Columbia 6
1964 "I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man" Columbia 113
"Shout" Laurie 108
"Johnny B. Goode" Columbia 71
1968 "Abraham, Martin and John" Laurie 4
"Purple Haze" Laurie 63
1969 "From Both Sides Now" Laurie 91
1970 "Your Own Back Yard" Warner Bros. 75
1971 "Sanctuary" Warner Bros. 103
1989 "And the Night Stood Still" Arista 75 16
1989 "King of the New York Streets" Arista 74
1989 "Written on the Subway Wall" / "Little Star" with Paul Simon[18] Arista
1990 "Sea Cruise" (From "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane") 28



We sang on the beaches, or on the rooftops, or in hallways of tenement buildings. We must have been sensitive artists. Even back then, because we always looked for the hallway that had the best sound.[19]


  1. ^ Unterberger writes, "his critical rep has risen steadily since the early '60s, with many noted contemporary musicians showering him with praise and citing his influence."
  2. ^ Sam Howe Vaerhovek (June 19, 1987). "A Wanderer, Dion Returns to His Roots". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/06/19/nyregion/a-wanderer-dion-returns-to-his-roots.html. 
  3. ^ DiMucci, Dion: "The Wanderer", page 89. Beech Tree Books, 1988
  4. ^ a b c d Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 156. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  5. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 134. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  6. ^ Semper Fidelis: The Spiritual Journey Of The Wanderer Who Came Home By Dion Dimucci
  7. ^ AOL.com
  8. ^ MTC.com
  9. ^ MTV.com
  10. ^ VH1.com
  11. ^ VH1.com
  12. ^ David Gonzalez (May 14, 2008). "'Wanderer' Has Given Up Wandering". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/nyregion/14dion.html. 
  13. ^ Blockbuster.com
  14. ^ Todd Leopold (October 23, 2009). "Dion salutes his 'Heroes' on new CD". CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/Music/10/23/dion.heroes/index.html. 
  15. ^ Fretbase, Dion Tackles Giants of Early Guitar Rock
  16. ^ "Board". Renewal Ministries. http://www.renewalministries.net/board.php. Retrieved 2009-01-13. [dead link]
  17. ^ a b Source : sleeve notes, King of the New York Streets box set
  18. ^ MTV.com
  19. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 

External links

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  • Dion DiMucci — Dion (bürgerlich Dion Francis DiMucci; * 18. Juli 1939 in der Bronx, New York) ist ein US amerikanischer Pop , Rock n Roll und Bluessänger und Songschreiber, der in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren seine größten Erfolge hatte. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Dion And The Belmonts — est un groupe de chant majeur dans l Amérique de la fin des années 1950s. Le groupe nait lorsque Dion DiMucci rejoint Les Belmonts Carlo Mastrangelo, Freddie Milano, et Angelo D Aleo fin 1957. Histoire Après un premier single sans succès, le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dion and the belmonts — est un groupe de chant majeur dans l Amérique de la fin des années 1950s. Le groupe nait lorsque Dion DiMucci rejoint Les Belmonts Carlo Mastrangelo, Freddie Milano, et Angelo D Aleo fin 1957. Histoire Après un premier single sans succès, le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dion and the Belmonts — est un groupe de chant majeur dans l Amérique de la fin des années 1950s. Le groupe nait lorsque Dion DiMucci rejoint Les Belmonts Carlo Mastrangelo, Freddie Milano, et Angelo D Aleo fin 1957. Histoire Après un premier single sans succès, le… …   Wikipédia en Français

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