In the 1960s, 20 years before Madonna came on the scene, there already were quite a few singers that went by their first name only. One of them was an Italian guy from the Bronx, New York who started out in a doo wop group and by the time he went solo, he was already known only by his first name. This was Dion DiMucci.
Many of Dion’s hits are still played on oldies stations to this day. The first record to hit the charts came when he was the lead singer of the group, Dion and The Belmonts. They were signed to Laurie Records. Their first offering, I Wonder Why, was on the national charts in no time at all. Songwriters Doc Shuman and Mort Pomus were hired to write an original song for another act at Laurie called The Mystics. They penned the tune, Teenager in Love, but the song was given to Dion and The Belmonts and became a huge hit. That is how Dion DiMucci became known to all as simply Dion. As for The Mystics, they weren’t left in the dust by the success of Teenager. Shuman and Pomus’ next collaboration, Hushabye, went to the them and became a great hit as well as their signature song.
Dion went solo in 1960 and began an incredible string of hits, mostly with girl’s name, which was all the rage at the time. New Jersey’s hot quartet, The Four Seasons, headed up by Frankie Valli, also had their first chartbuster in the early 60s with a girl named Sherry. While The Four Seasons’ girl name songs were mostly about girls who they thought were hot, hard to get or thought the guy in the song was cheating, Dion seemed to specialize in two-timing heartbreakers.
Runaround Sue described a girl who cheats on her man: “People, let me put you wise, Sue goes out with other guys.”
Sandy was another cheater like Runaround Sue that had to be dumped in spite of insane passion. “Why must I love you so much, Sandy, I long for your touch.”
Little Diane was another vixen whose man-eating ways were out of control. “Listen to my heart, you’re tearing it apart. Don’t you understand, why don’t you stop it, stop it, stop it if you can.”
Donna The Prima Donna. In a bit of a departure from the unfaithful femme fatales of the previous songs, Donna wouldn’t give you a tumble if you were broke. Gold digging Donna always wore “diamonds, diamonds and pearls galore.” She got them at the 5 and 10 cent store, or Woolworth to millions. Donna wanted to be “‘just like Zsa Zsa Gabor even though she’s the girl next door.”
Lovers Who Wander.This one is about a guy who has recovered from his romance with a gal who broke his heart.
The Wandererwas a classic 60s anthem embodying the independent restless womanizing rebel. Dion was often called “The Wanderer”.
Ruby Baby was a Lieber/Stoller composition that was originally recorded by The Drifters in the 1950s. Dion released it in 1963. That same year, the fantastic Bobby Darin included it on an album called ‘You’re the Reason I’m Living”, and Arkansas’ rockabilly legend, Ronnie Hawkins, covered it as well. Same song, same year, 3 different singers. Hawkins’ version is really my personal favorite, but it is Dion’s version that was the biggest chart hit and continues to be included in lists naming the Top 100 Songs of 1963.
While this style of music began to fade out with the British Invasion, Dion didn’t go anywhere. It is also interesting to note that Dion DiMucci and Bob Dylan were the only pop artists to appear on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. He was, however, struggling with a heroin addiction that he eventually was able to overcome.
After Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated in 1968, Dion released a ballad called Abraham, Martin and John, a tribute to our slain leaders. The song asks:
“Didn’t you love the things
That they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good
For you and me?”
Although Bobby Kennedy is not in the title, he is the subject of the song’s last stanza
“Has anybody here
Seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up
Over the hill
With Abraham, Martin, and John.”
This was Dion’s last big chart hit, reaching No. 4, and it has since been covered by numerous artists, including Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan and Whitney Houston.
Dion continues to this day in the music industry. He is also an excellent guitarist. Martin Guitars line of signature guitars includes ‘The Wanderer’, honoring Dion and his music.
Dion was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Source: Dion DiMucci.com