Among many hits, many know Dion for is his 1968 recording of Dick Holler’s “Abraham, Martin and John.” Still, much of the folk music recorded in the 1970s by the rock and roll pioneer remains overlooked. Thus, it was a nice discovery to hear Dion’s recording of another song by Holler called “Sanctuary.”
Dion’s album Live at the Bitter End, August 1971, which was only recently released in 2015, is full of gems. But “Sanctuary” is one of those songs that grabbed me right way.
“Sanctuary” is more personal than “Abraham, Martin and John,” where the singer recalls arriving in San Francisco. He contemplates the despair of events going on around the country. Despite the unrest, the singer finds some solace in having “John and Mary/And Sanctuary/ And Telegraph Avenue.” AllMusic concludes that the song is “an utterly poignant, melancholic masterpiece that you can’t believe you haven’t heard more often.”
“Sanctuary” is a beautiful song about finding some personal peace amidst the turmoil of the world. And it remains timely now more than forty years later.
There currently is not a separate version of Holler’s “Sanctuary” on YouTube, but you may hear it in this video for Dion’s entire Live At The Bitter End, 1971 album. We have queued the video to start at “Sanctuary” at the 39:10 mark.
Dion DiMucci remains one of the most underappreciated great early rock and rollers. Yes, everyone knows his work with the Belmonts and later on classic songs like “Runaround Sue.” But fans and critics often unjustly overlook other phases of Dion’s career.
Such is the case with his folk-rock work from the 1960s (as well as his blues music). Fortunately, Dion – Kickin’ Child 1965 Columbia Recordings — an album that would have been at the forefront of the folk-rock movement had it been released in 1965 when it was recorded in the Spring and Fall of that year — has finally been released.
The 15 songs on the album produced by Tom Wilson include ten written or co-written by Dion, as well as three Bob Dylan songs. One of the Dylan covers is a wonderful bluesy version of “Baby I’m in the Mood For You.”
Some of the songs would later appear on compilations, but the album never saw the light of day until now because Columbia refused to release it. Listening to the album now, it is impossible to understand that decision. But I am glad we can enjoy it now.
For example, one may easily imagine an alternate universe where the album was released in 1965. In that universe, “My Child” became a hit that forms the soundtrack of our memories of the 1960s.
Dion recently explained to Billboard how he left the record label after they refused to release Kickin’ Child. For decades, the experience gave Dion bad memories.
But when Dion recently listened to the remastered album, “The cloud lifted like vapor. It just lifted right out of my head. And I heard the music loud and clear like it was present to me. It wasn’t a novelty. It was rich. It was artistic, it was heartfelt. It was live. It was the real deal. And I said, ‘Man, this stuff is good.’ And I was proud of it.’”
One of my favorite tracks on the album is Dion’s cover of Tom Paxton’s “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound.”
The liner notes explain how Dion’s work at this time influenced others, even without the release of Kickin’ Child. For example, he suggested to Wilson to add an electric band to Bob Dylan’s “House of the Rising Sun” (Dylan loved it).
Critics are now giving the album some of the attention it should have received more than fifty years ago. For example, Allmusic understandably calls Kickin’ Child “absolutely one of the greatest folk-rock records ever.” American Songwriter gives the album four out of five stars.
Dion’s voice is in fine form. And the band from the Fall 1965 recording sessions — The Wanderers — has a great sound. The group included included The Belmonts’ Carlo Mastrangelo on drums.
Another standout track is “Knowing I Won’t Go Back There.” The song, written by Dion, previously appeared on the compilation album Road I’m On (another Dion album worth seeking out).
Kickin Child is a wonderful album, and anyone who loves music from the 1960s folk and folk-rock scene should definitely check it out.
Dion has mentioned that there exists other unreleased music from this era. So, hopefully there will be more coming as we continue to reassess the great career of Dion.
Leave your two cents in the comments.
%RELATEDPOSTs% (Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)
For Valentine’s Day, consider two lessons one may eventually learn about love. First, love is finite. Second, “love” is a verb.
First, remember that all love is finite. No matter how much you and your partner love each other, there is a good chance that one day you will lose that living connection to that person. Maybe your lover will leave you. Maybe you will leave your lover. But even if you both stay devoted to each other for the rest of your lives — unless you both happen to die in your sleep on the same night next to each other — one of you will go first, leaving the other alone.
All love is eventually lost. That is true whether we are talking about an amorous partnership, a family member, or a pet. We eventually lose all of our loves.
I know you are thinking, “Hey, it is Valentine’s Day, why are you being so depressing?” Well, one reason to recognize the limits on our love is so every day we prepare ourselves a little for that day when the end comes. You will never be prepared, but if you believe love is infinite, then the heartbreak, when it is sure to come, may be worse.
More importantly, another reason you need to remember that love is finite is so you will appreciate it when you have it. If you take a moment every day to remember that every day will not be like today, you will enjoy today and your love a little more.
The second lesson is to remember that “love” is a verb. This lesson comes from the singer Dion.
In his memoir Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth, singer-songwriter Dion DiMucci recalled one day when he was young and facing marital difficulties, he ran into the priest from his neighborhood. The priest asked how he was doing. The troubled Dion responded that he thought he was no longer in love with his wife. The priest replied something to the effect, “Then love her. Love is a verb.”
We too often think of “love” as a noun, as in, “I’m in love with this person.” If you look at “love” as a noun, you see it is a magical thing that happened and is beyond your control. That may be fine, but if you see it as a magic potion, then some day you will be surprised to discover that magic potions fade.
As Gretchen Wilson has told us, sometimes there are days when one may not feel like loving the person they love.
If instead of thinking of yourself as “being in love,” you recognize “love” is a verb. Then, you see love as a choice and obligation. Every day, “I choose to love you,” not “I happen to be in love with you.”
Thus, when things get rough, remember that you can still love that person even if you don’t feel like it in the moment. And if you are lucky enough to have somebody or something to love, treasure each finite moment. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Photo by Chimesfreedom (at the British Museum). Leave your two cents in the comments.
Dion Dimucci is releasing a new album, New York Is My Home. The album features ten new songs, mostly co-written by Dion, that focus on Dion’s experience in New York City. On the title track, he is joined by Paul Simon.
The Bronx-born Dion says he knew Paul Simon would understand the song “New York Is My Home” because Simon grew up in Queens. The Italian Tribune quotes Dion stating, “We share a love for rock ’n’ roll street music, the way it was done when we were kids. I knew Paul would ‘get’ this song. And he did.”
Dion released a video for the title track, the first single from the album. Check it out.
Dion has explained that some other songs on the album, like “The Apollo King” and “I’m Your Gangster of Love,” are based upon people Dion knew. Dion imagined “Visionary Heart” as a message that the late Buddy Holly might send to him. For various reasons, Dion remains connected to Buddy Holly in a number of ways. As discussed in more detail in another post, Dion was touring with Holly when Holly was killed in a plane crash.
Dion has continued to create some overlooked outstanding music late in his career, including some fantastic blues albums. So, I’m looking forward to the new music. The album New York Is My Home, which features guitar and keyboards from Jimmy Vivino of Conan O’Brien’s show, is available starting February 12, 2016.
Less than five years after John F. Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963, the country lost Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy to the bullets of assassins in 1968. Later that year, in tribute to the fallen men, Dion released the song, “Abraham, Martin, and John,” which became a hit in a country in shock and mourning.
The song, written by Dick Holler, has been performed by a number of artists, but nobody has matched Dion’s moving version. In the video below, he performs the song on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. [June 2014 Update: The performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is no longer available on YouTube, so below is a performance from Live Nashville Now, where Dion performs the song with Aaron Neville, where they intertwine the song with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”]