Dion ‘The Wanderer’ wends his way back to the Catholic faith

July 8, 2011

Bobz Book Reviews

Among rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Famer Dion DiMucci’s hits is “The Wanderer,” and wandering is just the right word for Dion’s life.

With the help of author Mike Aquilina, Dion recaps both his career and his faith journey in an interesting, intriguing book that’s a combination of autobiography, pop music history and personal testimony about his search for a religion he could believe in. “Dion: the Wanderer Talks Truth (stories, humor & music)”  is a 141-page Servant Books paperback that you could read in a single setting.

Biography, history and more

The boomer in me ate up the nostalgic trip through the early days of rock ‘n’ roll with Dion and the Belmonts and doo-wop harmony. Why drugs and alcohol have to be part of so many celebrity lives is a mystery to me, but thankfully Dion admits to succumbing to that lifestyle without dwelling on it or saddling readers with too much of how he was able to quit.

He devotes a lot more space to his musical influences, and gives major props to Dick Clark, the “American Bandstand” emcee who not only brought rock ‘n’ roll talent to the attention of a nation but offered sound moral, ethical and business advice to the acts that made it to Bandstand.

I hadn’t considered this before, but Dion pointed out that the explosion of television in the 1950s changed radio and in doing so made the modern pop music industry. As he explained it, the dramas and comedies that made network radio popular were swallowed up by TV — “The Lone Ranger,” Sid Caesar, for example — forcing radio to go another direction. That direction was to music, and it was perfect timing for the burgeoning youth culture of the post-World War II era.

But music is the focus of just about half of the book. The second half takes readers through Dion’s search for a spiritual home and an in-depth explanation of how and why he came to settle on Catholicism. A Brooklyn born and raised Italian-American, he was baptized Catholic but never practiced the faith. Throughout his like, though, he tried more than a handful of Christian varieties, including storefront churches.

The book touches on all the reasons that Dion found them all to be less than fulfilling and why when he looked again at Catholicism he found that fulfillment. I’ll let you taste that for yourself, but just quote a couple of lines that seem poignant:

“The son of God came to show us how to live and love,” Dion wrote. “He has the authority. I accept it. The problem is, most people don’t. They’re trying to reinvent the wheel. I was there, and I know it doesn’t work. I used to be outside the Church, screaming, yelling, and kicking it. I discovered that the problems weren’t so much with the Church as with me. Even with my problems, and even after I speck all that time kicking at its walls, the Church was willing to take me in and give me a place to work out God’s will for me.”

The impact that decision has had on his life, his family and his music pours off the pages as easily as Dion sang “Runaround Sue,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Abraham, Martin and John” and of course “The Wanderer.” While he comes close to being preachy, what I was left with was an impression of an intelligent man who authentically wants others to understand Jesus Christ and the Church he founded.

That he’s now involved in prison ministry just adds to that authenticity.

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 42-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

View all posts by Bob Zyskowski