When I listen to Dion, I can’t help but think of neon signs. Not because doo-wop—for which Dion was essentially a poster child with his No. 1 hit “Runaround Sue”—so often conjures up images of teenagers dancing at diners under their glow. But because in New York, Dion’s birthplace, it wasn’t all that long ago that neon signs marked everything from churches to liquor stores to dirty-movie theaters. Their tubes wrangled gas—a word that comes from the Greek for “chaos”—into a state of order, and reds, blues, greens, and yellows soldered the city’s avenues and cross streets together into a fulgent matrix built for nighttime. Whether the signs were bolted to a roost for the civilized or to a refuge for the down-and-out, they functioned as a lingua franca, knitting together the otherwise unconnected.
And Dion’s music isn’t all that different. Once you get past “Runaround Sue,” you’ll see that with the finest voice in all of rock ’n’ roll, Dion creates order in the vast meaninglessness of it all. He bathes every imaginable feeling and thought in the same warm, groovy light and makes everything seem interconnected, even if in the faintest of ways. There’s a great humanity to it.
Though neon has mostly been replaced with uninspired awnings and lurid light-box signs, don’t palliate your woes with Xanax and a pair of sunglasses. Turn on some Dion. He’s not going anywhere.
Nathan King is a Deputy Editor for AIR MAIL