Pop star Dion on heroin at 14 and missing the plane that killed ...

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Pop star Dion on heroin at 14 and missing the plane that killed Buddy Holly

1960s idol also talks about running with Bronx gangs and squaring up to Phil Spector and his gun-toting guitarists

Craig McLean

There aren’t many original rock ‘n’ rollers still standing. One of the very best, Little Richard, died last month. But there’s Dion: if not quite the last man standing, possibly the last great American musician from the dawn of the genre who’s still rockin’ and rollin’ as vigorously as ever.

Sixty years on from groundbreaking hits Runaround Sue and The Wanderer, the 80-year-old is releasing Blues With Friends. It’s a 14-track, self-written set that is what it says on the tin: a tribute to the genre featuring Dion fans and acolytes including Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Paul Simon and Jeff Beck. The album features sleeve notes by another old friend, Bob Dylan, who attributes Dion’s success to two teachers: his “vaudevillian father and the doo-wop street corners of the Bronx”.

The pair go way back, not least to sharing the distinction of being the only two contemporary artists featured on the sleeve of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – John Lennon was a huge fan of Ruby Baby, the 1962 Dion hit that was a mainstay of The Beatles’ Hamburg sets...

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