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Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Worth Knowing More About Dion DiMucci

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Fri, Jul 22, 2011 at 10:35 AM

This week I reviewed A Little Help, the new movie from writer/director Michael Weithorn starring Jenna Fischer. It's bad. Don't see it. However, there wasn't enough room in my review to mention the cameo by Dion DiMucci, who everyone knows from "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer," but remains an oddly unheralded talent, undoubtedly one of the greatest vocalists to come out of the rock era. He doesn't save A Little Help, and actually his cameo—a portion of which you can watch above, if you dare—is pretty embarrassing. (Jakob Dylan performs the bulk of the soundtrack*, to the film's obvious detriment.) But seeing Dion smiling good naturedly and jamming on guitar with that goofy-haired kid made me remember how incredible he is.

After success in the early '60s, and after kicking a heroin habit that he'd nurtured since the '50s (ahead of the curve, even then), Dion had one more hit in 1968 with "Abraham, Martin and John" (here's a great clip of him performing it on the Smothers Brothers' show). Dion never really had much further success in the singles market, but he stuck around—becoming a born again Christian in the late '70s (he's since reverted to the Catholicism he grew up with)—and lent his amazing voice to a long string of records. My favorite might be 2000's Déjà Nu, which sees him revisiting the old-fashioned recording techniques he used to make his early hits. Here's an a capella cover of a Bruce Springsteen song from that record:

LISTEN:

Dion - "If I Should Fall Behind"

This is all to say that you should listen to more Dion. He's done doo-wop, folk, country, rock, blues, and more, and he's done it all well. Now he spends much of his time as a prison minister, helping incarcerated men over their drug addictions. The man's just amazing, probably the only person in the world I could actually listen to sing the proverbial phonebook. Listen to his records. But don't watch A Little Help.

*whoa, did we really just mention Jakob Dylan in two consecutive blog posts?

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