“He always had the name that said it all--Dion.” That’s from Bruce Springsteen, who knows a little bit about music. Dion DiMucci--yes, he has a last name--is a multi-platinum musician, member of the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, and a “ferocious Catholic,” he writes in Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth (St. Anthony Messenger/Servant, Apr.; reviewed in this issue). “It was a long time in coming,” said DiMucci, who will be 72 in July and still tours.
His wandering spiritual journey started on the Bronx streets, where Monsignor Joseph Pernicone would summon (“Yo, Dion”) and quiz him: What’s virtue? What’s truth? “It kind of grabbed something in my mind,” he told RBL.
His quest got sidetracked by 14 years of drug and alcohol abuse that was fueled by early fame and money. The spiritual awakening that eventually ended his substance abuse brought him first to evangelical Christianity, where he learned the Bible that had been absent from his Catholic family home. His spiritual reading later grew to include the early church fathers. “When I saw what they believed I said, ‘These guys were Catholic. Ever since the mid-’90s, I’m home.”
If DiMucci has been a spiritual prodigal returned, musically he’s roamed around and around, too. From the doo-wop street harmonies of Dion and the Belmonts’ I Wonder Why in 1958 through his simple and elegiac Abraham, Martin, and John in 1968 to the award-winning 2007 album Bronx in Blue, the recording artist has invented himself over and over again. He’s in the studio now recording another album that he expects will be out by the end of the year. Book co-writer Mike Aquilina has written songs for it with him. Said DiMucci, “I feel more relevant now than I ever have.”
DiMucci has been married to Susan Butterfield (who was not Runaround Sue) since 1963 and they have three daughters and three grandchildren. His 97-year-old mother is around, too. “I just took my mother out to lunch. She’s like, ‘I’m healthy.’” And truth--it’s in the title of the book--remains important to him. “I really base my life on the truth, and I’m ferocious about that,” he said. “It’s wonderful to be truly free and choose the good.”