Singing the Blues with St. Jerome
In 1968, Bob Dylan "Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine." Now, 40 years later, his friend the modern blues master and rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame inductee Dion DiMucci is singing of another saint. The hero of Dion's song "The Thunderer" on the 2007 release Son of Skip James is the irascible St. Jerome.
Jerome was born in northern Italy around A.D. 348 and died in Bethlehem around 420. A respected scholar and major champion of monasticism in the West, Jerome is best known as a Bible translator, having produced the standard Latin translation of Scripture that became known as the Vulgate. Church historian Justo Gonzalez writes that Jerome was "outstanding for his titanic and endless struggle with the world and with himself." Not only did he criticize and tangle with heretics but also other Christians such as John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, Basil of Caesarea, and Augustine of Hippo. Augustine clashed with Jerome over his choice to translate the Old Testament from the original Hebrew rather than from the venerated Greek Septuagint. They later reconciled as friends and allies during the Pelagian controversy. Though Jerome's towering spirit was far from irenic, Gonzalez concludes that "his rigid façade hid a sensitive spirit."
But how did Jerome get from the dusty deserts of the 5th century to the 21st-century airwaves of American blues radio? One answer might be Dion DiMucci's personal journey. Many know Dion as the voice behind "The Wanderer" or as the one who turned down a seat on that fateful plane with Buddy Holly "the day the music died." He was famous enough in the 1960s to have his face appear on The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely ...