Last week, Florida Gov. Ronald Dion DeSantis announced his run for president of the United States. In the avalanche of background coverage, one point hasn’t been discussed much: DeSantis’ middle name. “Dion”?
According to reporting from NBC News, it’s a tribute to the early rockstar, and Bronx-born heartthrob, Dion DiMucci. When Henry J. Gomez interviewed fraternity brothers of DeSantis’ father, Ronald (they call him a “jokester”), one said that the elder DeSantis was “into music.” The potential president got his middle name, according to the report, as “a tribute” to Dion.
I reached out to Dion to ask if he had any comment on his (middle) namesake’s run. A spokesperson told me that the artist “predictably” is “not going to engage” beyond the following: “Ron DeSantis’ father has great taste in Rock ‘n’ Roll. God bless America.”
There you go. Tepid. But respectful. We’re doing the work over here to cover the 2024 presidential primary.
If you’re wondering why there’s a God bless on the end there, it might be worth knowing that DiMucci had a Christian rock phase. After helping birth “Rock ‘n’ Roll”—at least the commercialized, teeny-bop-friendly version that soared in the 1950s—Dion’s career wandered. In the 1960s, he did have solo hits after his success with the Belmonts. But the British invasion, and the cataclysms of 1968, saw his style tossed aside. In the 1970s, he had a very underappreciated troubadour thing going. In 1976, Dion released Born to Be With You—a baroque pop record disliked by critics—with the infamous Phil Specter producing. That decade he also put out Sweetheart (with Phil Everly on backing vocals on a song!) and, again, no luck. Eventually, DiMucci found God. In 1983, he released, “I Put My Idols Away.” Here are the lyrics to the title track:
I was raised on New York rock and roll
I took control
I was cool
Made the rounds
Made the record hops
I hit the top
Played the fool
From above I truly heard a friend
Truly now you must be born again
If Dylan could go Christian, why not Dion? It seems this didn’t lead to much in terms of politics, except for avoidance of such earthly matters. In 2020, Der Spiegel interviewed Dion and he rebuffed an election question like this:
SPIEGEL: Sam Cooke once sang: “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Translated into today: Do you believe in a change in the US presidential election?
DiMucci: I know nothing about politics. That’s why I don’t want to comment on Trump. Some like him, others hate him. I believe in God more than politicians and stay out of it.
In 1989, Lou Reed—who loved Dion’s voice—inducted him into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That same year, Reed appeared on a track on Dion’s album Yo Frankie. (Produced by Dave Edmunds, of Rockpile.) It had special guests Paul Simon and Bryan Adams. And it got a positive review in Rolling Stone. Dion had his return to secular music.
It’s unclear at what stage of Dion’s career Ronald DeSantis loved enough to name his son partially after DiMucci. But consider this an important point in an ongoing confirmation of something one side of my family has noted: DeSantis would be the first Italian American president in the history of the United States.