Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review - Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth (stories, humor and music)

The roots of rock music go way back, but the origins of what we would describe as rock and roll began officially in the 1950's. Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin, Rick Nelson, Fats Domino and the one lone female, Connie Francis (who has not been inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame, shame on them) have all been given their due as originators of the music. They've been celebrated and exulted. A few of these people were indeed gifted and the rest were relatively pedestrian.

Dion DiMucci (Dion from the Belmonts and his solo career as Dion) had an intriguing career and indeed he still lives on. Literally and figuratively. Dion had one of the best voices in the entire rock era. His singing ability is up there in the same arena as those of Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Steve Perry, Paul Rodgers, Stephen Stills, Don Henley and Glenn Frey. He was also a superb stylist, interpreter and phraser.  Listen to his most famous songs and they are remarkably timeless. Dion had the best voice. It's a determined, yet effortless style of singing. His style and passion took rock music to different areas of the brain. His voice is completely undisturbed. It's him. He never stretches for a note. He's got one of the most memorable voices ever to lay down a track. He was the first rock singer to be signed by Columbia Records and looking back on the history of the industry it is no shock that he would hold that distinction.  My problem is - I wish there were more recordings of Dion. His voice is right there and it holds.

"Runaround Sue," "Donna the Prima Donna," "The Wanderer" and "Abraham, Martin and John" are all precious examples of a voice at its peak in the realm of rock and pop music.

He started his career fronting the vocal group, Dion and the Belmonts and eventually settled into a solo career.

As Lou Reed would say as he inducted Dion DiMucci into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

"Dion could do all the turns, stretch those syllables so effortlessly, soar so high he could reach the sky and dance there among the stars forever. He had the chops, and he practically invented the attitude. After all, who could be hipper than Dion?"

Those lines are directly from Lou Reed's induction speech (not verbatim) and quite frankly, his tribute is so spot-on and meticulously sincere that there is no way one could attempt to be original in relating Dion's talent.

Dion pays an enormously grand tribute to the late Dick Clark. I had the opportunity to work with Dick Clark, so what Dion puts on the page is powerful. Dick Clark was indeed a shrewd businessman and a good man who wanted to and often was successful at guiding young talent into leading "good" lives. I liked Dick and I am honored to have had the privilege of working with him on several projects over the years of my television career.

Dion's hits came along before my record buying years, but his biggest hits have had consistent play on stations ever since they first launched over fifty years ago. The bigger issue is that this rock and roll legend has a hero and his name is St. Augustine. More importantly, he humbles himself before the cross of Christ.

Dion is blunt and bold regarding his love for Christ. He brings you to the water fountain of that life transforming power that only Jesus Himself can bring to an individual. The book is chock full of stories, humor and music (hence the subtitle). It is also a lovely tribute to his wife, Susan. We often discuss great love stories, but there is no doubt that the story of Dion and Susan is easily one of the most significant show business love stories.  As Paul McCartney wrote of his one time fiancee, Jane Asher - Susan was indeed "Here, There and Everywhere" for Dion DiMucci.

Dion's song, "Runaround Sue" which he co-wrote with Ernie Maresca lives on to this day and it still sounds fresh. How could you not love the very movement of the song? It's an anthem of young "interest." " Here's the story - it's sad, but true..." Fortunately, for Dion, this was not the Sue he married.

Dion's transformation from the drinking rocker to a man of God came back in the 1960s. Dion wanted to stop drinking and he simply asked and it was given. Since that moment Dion never took a drink or used drugs again. God was waiting for him to just ask. Humbly ask.

Dion tells of his coming to the Cross moment and his years of discovering the truths of the Gospel. He even lets us in on his love of the letters of the Apostle Paul.

Dion explores stories that involve everyone from John Lennon to Yogi Berra to Gina Lollobrigida.

He takes you into the deep recesses of not only his conversion from street to spiritual soul, but to the daily crevices of life.  We learn about his relationships with his parents, his children, his fellow musicians.  We get the gift of hearing words of wisdom from some of the men and women who have influenced Dion's faith walk.  He gets it right - it all comes back to the truth of Christ. His discussion on the concept of love could have been written by a philosophical giant. Love is sacrifice. Amen to that.

The book was co-written with Mike Aquilina.  It's a well told story written in an intensely fast-paced way that gets you through the book in a couple of nights.

I loved this book and the first things you do upon completing it are 1) turn to some of the scripture verses he references (including Malachi 4:6) and then you go and look up tour dates. Unfortunately, Dion is nowhere near where I am going to be this year.  Bummer, but I've got his songs downloaded from iTunes.

Do yourself a big favor and pick up a copy of "Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth - (stories, humor & music)." You will feel refreshed and you will get a boost of energy from reading about a life lived and well lived at that.    

Copyright Read On Read Now 2013