Dion and the Belmonts were one of the quintessential doo wop groups in this first era of rock and roll. They hailed from the Bronx in New York City. Group members were Dion DiMucci, Carlo Mastrangelo, Fred Milano, and Angelo D’Aleo. They called themselves The Belmonts because the members either lived on or near Belmont Avenue in the Bronx. The song “I Wonder Why” was written by Melvin Fair and Ricardo Weeks and first recorded by Dion and The Belmonts for Laurie Records in 1958. The lyrics are one of the classic doo wop love songs, with a line such as “Don’t know why I love you like I do” summing up many an experience of joyous but baffling love at any age. This was the group’s first national hit, rising to #22 on the U.S. Pop Singles Chart in 1958. They also appeared on American Bandstand, which gave them national exposure. One of the distinctive features of this doo wop classic is from Carlo Mastrangelo signing the bass part in a sort of Morse Code rhythm. (They also have a repeated use of “wop, wop, wop, wop, wop.” This is part of the feature of doo wop music that uses of nonsense syllables. For the youth from Belmont Avenue, it also was to proclaim proudly their Italian heritage by tossing back — with fervor and delight — the pejorative slur W.O.P. The exact origin of the term is uncertain, but it is sometimes attributed to being a reference to Italian immigrants who came to Ellis Island in New York “without papers.”)
The song “I Wonder Why” has been featured in the films A Bronx Tale and John Carpenter’s adaption of Stephen King’s Christine. Nicolas Cage sang the song in Peggy Sue Got Married. It has also been used in the pilot episode of TV series The Sopranos. The British group Shawaddywaddy, which sings songs from the 1950s and 1960s, had a hit with “I Wonder Why,” taking it to #2 on the U.K. Single Chart.
Dion and The Belmonts went on to have big hits with “A Teenager in Love” and “Where or When.” In 1960,though, they went their separate ways. Dion went to a hospital to deal with his heroin addiction. He also was more interested in rock and roll than pursuing pop standards. He then had hits with “Runaround Sue,” “The Wanderer,” and “Ruby Baby.” He was often backed up by the group The Del-Satins. The Belmonts continued performing for many decades. Dion went beyond being a music legend and explored many genres of music, including Christian music, and continues to tour and perform today.