Previews of the jukebox musical, “The Wanderer” – based on the life and music of Dion DiMucci, better known, simply, as Dion – began at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn on March 24. The official opening night is April 3, and the musical runs until April 24; cast members will include Michael Wartella (as Dion), Christy Altomare and New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre.
Dion, 82, was involved in the production. The Paper Mill Playhouse claims the show was “produced in cooperation with Dion DiMucci”.
To help theater-goers prepare – and to offer a quick look at Dion’s music for anyone else interested – I’ve put together these 20 videos, starting in the ’50s and ending with his 2021 album, playground. They are listed in chronological order.
There’s also a Spotify playlist, below, with 15 of the songs (the other five weren’t available on Spotify).
What a long and incredible career it has been. Enjoy!
(To note: I realize this doesn’t include all of Dion’s great recordings. It’s just an overview. Please add one of your favorite songs, if you like, where it says “Leave a review or comment” below.)
“I wonder why.” Dion’s first hit, recorded with his doo-wop group The Belmonts in 1958.
“A teenager in love.” Dion and the Belmonts’ greatest claim to immortality doo-wop, from 1959.
“Running Sue.” Dion’s first big hit as a solo artist came in 1961.
“The Vagabond.” The sequel to “Runaround Sue” and another hit. And a nice illustration of a double standard: Sue was criticized for running around, while The Wanderer was celebrated for it.
“Ruby baby.” Another big hit, from 1962, full of Dion’s now signature swagger attitude.
“Drip.” Dion had a Top 10 hit with this song in 1963. Like “Ruby Baby”, it was written by Leiber & Stoller and originally recorded by The Drifters.
“Baby, I’m in the mood for you.” Dion gave Bob Dylan’s little-known song a blonde on blonde-like arrangement on this remarkable track, which remained unreleased until the 1991 release of his Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965) compilation.
“Abraham, Martin and John.” Like many pre-Beatles American hitmakers, Dion struggled to stay on the charts after the British invasion. But he returned to the Top 10 in 1968 with this touching tribute to slain leaders Abraham Lincoln, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy.
“Violet mist”. Yes, the Jimi Hendrix song, totally reinvented in 1968, not after it appeared on are you experienced.
“(Looking for) Saturday Night Heart.” Dion does Tom Waits, in 1978.
“Wife from New Jersey.” Dion became a born-again Christian in 1979, and his 1980 album inner work reflects that, on this song and others.
“Only God can change a heart.” Since 1985 kingdom in the streets.
“A teenager in love.” What a great live clip from a 1987 benefit concert at Madison Square Garden, with Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Lou Reed (singing bass), James Taylor, Billy Joel and Rubén Blades becoming, briefly, Belmonts.
“King of the streets of New York.” Dion returned to secular recorded music in 1989, with his Yo Frankie album. Lou Reed sang backing vocals on this single.
“Written on the subway wall.” Also from Yo Frankiewith the help of Paul Simon.
“Sea cruise.” A fun reworking of the old Frankie Ford, from the 1990s soundtrack “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane”.
“If I were to fall behind.” Dion gave Springsteen’s ballad a doo-wop arrangement on his 1992 album dream on fire.
“I’m ready to go.” Since 2011 Tank full of blues.
“What if I told you.” As its title suggests, Dion’s 2020 album blues with friends includes blues songs with various guests. Samantha Fish adds a sizzling guitar to this one.
“Angel in the Alleys.” Dion’s 2021 album playground followed a similar formula; Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen are featured on this song.
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