Previews of the jukebox musical, “The Wanderer” — based on the life and the music of Dion DiMucci, better known, simply, as Dion — began at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, March 24. The official opening night is April 3, and the musical runs through April 24; cast members will include Michael Wartella (as Dion), Christy Altomare and New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre.
Dion, 82, has been involved with the production. The Paper Mill Playhouse is saying the show has been “produced in cooperation with Dion DiMucci.”
To help theater-goers prepare — and to offer a quick overview of Dion’s music to anyone else who is interested — I have put together these 20 videos, starting in the ’50s and ending with his 2021 album, Stomping Ground. They are listed in chronological order.
There is also a Spotify playlist, below, with 15 of the songs (the other five were not available on Spotify).
What a long and incredible career it has been. Enjoy!
(Note: I realize that this does not include every great Dion recording. It’s just an overview. Please add a favorite song of yours, if you’d 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 & the Belmonts’ biggest claim to doo-wop immortality, from 1959.
“Runaround Sue.” Dion’s first major hit as a solo artist, in 1961.
“The Wanderer.” The followup to “Runaround Sue,” and another smash. And a great 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-trademark swaggering attitude.
“Drip Drop.” 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 the little-known Bob Dylan 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 hit-makers, Dion had a hard time staying on the charts after the British Invasion. But he returned to the Top 10 in 1968 with this touching tribute to assassinated leaders Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy.
“Purple Haze.” Yes, the Jimi Hendrix song, totally reinvented in 1968, not after it appeared on Are You Experienced.
“(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night.” Dion does Tom Waits, in 1978.
“New Jersey Wife.” Dion became a born-again Christian in 1979, and his 1980 album Inside Job reflected that, on this song and others.
“Only God Can Change a Heart.” From 1985’s 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 getting, briefly, to be Belmonts.
“King of the New York Streets.” 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 Frankie, with Paul Simon helping out.
“Sea Cruise.” A fun re-make of the Frankie Ford oldie, from the soundtrack of 1990’s “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.”
“If I Should Fall Behind.” Dion gave the Springsteen ballad a doo-wop arrangement on his 1992 album Dream on Fire.
“I’m Ready to Go.” From 2011’s Tank Full of Blues.
“What If I Told You.” As its title implies, Dion’s 2020 album Blues With Friends includes blues songs with various guests. Samantha Fish adds some sizzling guitar to this one.
“Angel in the Alleyways.” Dion’s 2021 album Stomping Ground followed a similar formula; Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen are featured on this song.
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