Diana Mangano on Working with and Being Influenced by Other Musicians She’s Worked with in the Past – Edit by Keith Dion, August 9th, 2013.
I love music but I never intended to become a professional, working musician. I had a fantastic childhood – I lived a very simple life with my large, beautiful family. I grew up in the country and never went anywhere near cities and chaos. The natural world was and still is what I resonate with and honor. Music was in my life due to my grandparents all having musical talent. My father’s dad started early as a working musician. He began to play guitar and sing at age five and never stopped. He had perfect pitch, played many instruments, didn’t read music and was a sought out bassist and vocalist during the jazz years in Buffalo, NY. He had me carefully listen to vinyl with him at age four, but I had been hearing music since in the womb. Most musicians can read music, study music history and know all the facts, names, genres etc – I don’t. I cannot read music notation and can often go days or weeks without even listening to it.
Due to genetics I suppose, I was born with quite a voice and from an early age was prompted to use it by everyone around me. Much to every adult’s chagrin, I was (and still am) rather shy and uninterested in being a ‘performer’. I loved to sing and love music, but the attention and demands of front and center stage, lead roles, solos, photos, interviews, recordings, videos, all the focus – makes me ill. I am forty five years old now and still feel exactly the same way. Everything I did – dance, gymnastics, singing, acting – just kind of happened for me. I was guided by my parents and teacher’s direction and dedication and I simply went with the flow.
I never had the desire to be famous, nor the passion and drive to seek out a career in music – like so many of my friends did. It is not surprising that, when I began singing with ‘The Jefferson Starship’, I asked Paul Kantnor if I could stand and sing way in the back – instead of being out front. I somehow managed to make it through thirteen years of touring the world with them as their lead vocalist and another ten years or so, recording and performing with other musicians from around the country and San Francisco.
Prairie Prince was pivotal in my life. Not only was he my lovely partner for fifteen years, he was my inspirational fellow musician and we collaborated on many projects together. Over the many years I have experienced and participated in the music world with all its glory, horror, fun and hard work. I have dealt with every type of person one could imagine. I have loved, hated, enjoyed, tolerated, continue and discontinued many working relationships with these people.
Growing up, I focussed mostly on gymnastics for ten years and was a natural there, too. I loved dance the most, due to the fun factor and the abandon and creativity involved. No-one pushed me too hard in any direction with this. I just excelled in gymnastics for some time. Dance and voice where what I could still continue to do after gymnastics had throttled my body. Having a large family and living far away from everything made it very hard to continue my gymnastics career. It was too much stress for all of us. So, dance and singing then took the lead. In college, I was fortunate to work with some of the best musicians I’ve ever met. Their talents were and still are for beyond those of most of the famous people I ended up working with. For several reasons, I did not dig in my heels and pursue singing for professional purposes. After college, I was going to enrol in school for Massage Therapy and almost did – but then my friend Liz invited me to a ‘Jefferson Starship’ concert and my entire life took a very different direction. I was twenty five years old.
To make a long story short. I ended up speaking with the band after a show in New York and a month later I was on stage singing with them. I never intended that to be the starting point of continuously working with ‘The Jefferson Starship’, or their various members. It all happened by chance and in the following months, I half-heartedly offered them my services due to their lack of a female lead vocalist at the time. My taste in music was quite varied, so I didn’t expect to just end up working only with them. I simply did not want to limit myself to that one genre. I moved to San Francisco and toured with them, but also began to sing with other performers. I went from not doing much in western New York state, to singing on the same stages with some of the extremely famous musicians and groups that I had listened to all of my life. Then I began to travel the world with them.
I also started to do some studio work for local San Francisco and international brands but live performing was what I enjoyed the most, after finally getting over the pre-show anxieties I’d always suffered. Prairie Prince and I began a relationship and he was pivotal in my singing career due to his kindness, support and the endless musical ventures and contacts he’d introduce me to. He helped me explore and execute various singing styles, while we collaborated together with many musicians. All of this happened without me really applying myself too much. I was just going with the flow and having a lot of fun while doing it.
Life happens, you roll with it and you bump into folks for reasons and that’s what happened with Keith Dion and me. We knew similar musicians and one day, we just started to all create together. Here we are now, due to Keith’s hard work and consistent efforts – and superior attention to the business end of things and all the details. This is what made him stand out: his kindness, business savvy and talent all rolled into one. It is quite odd to find that combination in someone and even more odd to continuously work with someone for years without having any money, ego, or personal problems present themselves. I am blessed. My past experiences with at least 60% of all the other musicians, producers, agents, managers (‘damagers’ to quote Billy Eckstein) etc. I’ve worked with has proved to be less than enjoyable. One manager in particular disgusted me so much that I left the band after thirteen years and never returned. Performing and working with Keith has been a joy and I am very grateful for the opportunity. He and I both understand the ups and more commonly, the downs, of the music industry and so we resonate on that level. This makes our foundation similar and our desire to dodge the bullcrap and get to the good stuff, the ultimate goal.
I still have a hard time with the role of being a front person/lead vocalist so I am enjoying my current collaborations with Keith and other bands today, from more of a background vocal role. I have plans to record some of my own creations in the upcoming years too. For now, I am loving life as a childcare provider and professional massage therapist, with a few singing gigs in between.
© Diana Mangano, August 9th, 2013.
Sources – video links etc.
# 1: Diana performing with ‘The Jefferson Airplane’ at their Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction, 1996.
# 2: Sound Check – ‘The Great American Robber Barons’ performing on the ‘Bruce Latimer’ TV show in Pacifica, August 7th, 2013, as shot by Vivian Vosu. Non-broadcast quality audio though.
Current Music Videos: ‘The Great American Robber Barons’ –
1: Reno Nevada:
Using Keith’s father’s 8mm home movie clips from the 1960s of the Las Vegas and Reno NV gambling strips. This is the classic song by Richard and Mime Farina.
2: At the Hands of the Robber Barons:
An expose of the financial criminals that run our world – to be used by the Occupy Wall St. Movement.
3: Too Big for Your Boots:
Done in black and white, in a 1960s French TV style – reminiscent of Brazil ’66.
www.305am for all things on ‘The Great American Robber Barons’.
Virtual Press Kit:
From Ariel Publicity for The Great American Robber Barons. To view the press kit with MP3s, YouTube video links, press, photos and bio material: