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From Hassles to Heaven

by ANS Editor

By Chris Pick, Special to ASSIST News Service

SCRANTON, PA (ANS – July 2, 2017)He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40: 3)

John with wife and granddaughterThis passage of scripture was the testimony of the late John Dizek who went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday June 27, 2017, at 10:05 PM. EST. He was surrounded by his loving family after a long battle with cancer and liver problems. “He went peacefully and exactly how he wanted to,” his daughter Jessica had shared. “The last couple days were filled with laughter, music, and praise. God has been so good to us through all of this and really gave my dad the journey home exactly the way he always wanted it.”

“Little John,” as fans remember him, was the lead singer of the 60s rock and roll band The Hassles. The group released two full-length albums and a number of singles from 1964 to 1969.

The original line-up of the group consisted of vocalist John Dizek, guitarist Richard McKenna, drummer Jon Small, and organist Harry Weber. Weber suffered from addiction which sadly took his life. Weber was replaced by Howie Arthur Blauvelt and pop sensation Billy Joel on bass and keyboards respectively. It is with this lineup that the band recorded their self-titled debut album in 1967. Dizek departed the band in late 1968 due to health issues (he contracted hepatitis from a blood transfusion), at which point Joel took over on vocal duties. The band recorded their second album, Hour of the Wolf, in 1969 which featured several songs written and co-written by Dizek.

John Dizek with The HasslesFollowing the demise of The Hassles Joel and Small formed the duo group “Attila,” whilst Blauvelt later co-founded “Ram Jam.” Joel later went on to a successful solo career and Small became a video producer and director, directing music videos for Joel, Garth Brooks, etc.

Dizek, meanwhile, was being drawn in another direction – to Jesus who would become his Lord and Savior and give him new songs. Besides fighting health issues, Dizek was on a spiritual search from Catholicism to Protestantism and finally to a relationship with Christ. He made Jesus His Lord and Savior around 1974 and never looked back. Remembering his Hassle days, Dizek once told me, “We never saw the light of day. We were out all night and slept all day.” Soon after, Dizek saw the light when he encountered Jesus and started composing music to the LORD, though the songs would never be recorded solely by Dizek.

While living in New York in the early 80s, Dizek played worship in church with Donny McClurkin, the music minister at Faith Tabernacle. He was a humble, talented man who John admired very much. It was at Faith Tabernacle where Dizek met Lucy (his soon-to-be wife). Lucy and John met in 1982. Lucy recalls, “Donny was the equivalent to Billy Joel in the Christian music circle.” During this time another music minister entered Dizek’s life, a man named Dartanian Evans. Dartanian and his wife Cynthia sang and played at John and Lucy’s wedding in 1984.

Soon after, another music minister Lance Batchelder took Dizek under his wings. Lucy remembers: “John had so many godly men in his life!”

Eventually, Lucy and John had a beautiful daughter whom they named Jessica. Lucy shared with me that Jessica would often fall asleep listening to her daddy play the piano at night.

John Dizek at Keyboard smallerThe Dizeks eventually moved to Scranton, PA.

Seventeen years ago, while living in Scranton, PA, Dizek teamed up with his friend and Christian singer/songwriter Angela Shirley to help her record a new project. Shirley heard some of Dizek’s songs and wanted to record them for her 2000 release “Ahead of the Storm.” The album featured eleven of Dizek’s songs including a song he co-wrote with Angela Shirley called “Thy Will Be Done.” The project opens with Dizek’s most cherished composition about the love of God entitled “Child I Love You.”

Friend and fellow singer/songwriter John Roginski worked with Dizek often in the church’s worship team. Roginski remarked: “He was always willing to teach everyone. He played everything and understood music deeply. He brought a quality to the sound of worship that came straight from the Creator. He will be sorely missed.”

Last year, Dizek’s health took a turn for the worst. Besides battling cancer, he was in need of a liver transplant. Roginski and their church put together a music benefit for Dizek in Scranton last February. Many friends of Dizek came out and performed to help raise money for Dizek’s treatment, among them was Wade Preston (Billy Joel’s understudy and “The Piano Man” in Billy’s musical “MOVIN’ OUT”). Prior to the event, Dizek’s former bandmate Billy Joel called him and sent him money to help with treatment.

Group picture Chris PickDespite the treatment, God called John home last Tuesday night, and John was ready to go home!

John’s wife Lucy posted on Facebook shortly after his passing: “I know John is now playing his piano before the Lord. Probably accompanying the greatest lyricist of all time King David. He is walking on streets of gold united with his loved ones for all eternity.

“Several years ago John had a dream,” she continued, “and I would like to share it with all of you. He was in bed one morning and started to laugh so joyfully and loud that I could hear him in the living room. His laughter woke him up out of his sleep. He dreamt he was walking in a field of flowers. The sunlight was so bright and the flowers were so vivid. Their colors were transparent and he could see through the flowers. He was full of peace and joy walking through this field that laughter filled up inside of him. John and I believe that God gave him a vision of heaven. One which he never forgot to this very day.

John with his daughter“John went home to be with his Lord, Jesus, in peace. I know his greatest desire would be that all his friends knew Jesus as their Savior. This lifetime is as grain of sand at a beach or a drop of water in an ocean compared to eternity. Perhaps now is the time to contemplate where you will be spending eternity. If you do not have the peace of knowing where you will spend eternity, just go in prayer to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Thank Him for dying on the cross so you can go to heaven. His death is your passport into the kingdom. He is waiting for you and wants to prove He is real and He loves you. No greater love than this is when a man lays down his life for his friends. Jesus laid down His life for you.”

Because so much money was invested in Dizek’s health treatment, the family has been struggling with funeral costs to honor John. If you are led to contribute, you can find information about making a donation at this link: https://www.gofundme.com/john-dizeks-funeral-expenses

Photo captions: 1) John’s wife Lucy, granddaughter Lexi, and John. 2) John Dizek (left) with The Hassles. 3) A happy John Dizek playing his keyboard. 4) Paul Venturi and John Roginski of The Monkeephiles (on the ends), John Dizek, and Chris Pick at Dizek, Roginski, and Venturi’s church in Scranton, PA. 5) John and his lovely daughter Jessica. 6) Chris Pick performing.

Chris Pick playing guitarAbout the writer: Chris Pick is a singer/songwriter, missionary, and advocate for the Persecuted Church and Native Missionary Movement. He has been involved with several mission projects which have included work in South America, Africa, Asia, and North America (ministering among the Lakota Sioux at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Allen, SD as the Ute and Navajo at the Mountain Ute Reservation in Towaoc). As a singer/songwriter, Pick’s music has been heard globally and charted on many continents in both mainstream, adult contemporary, and Christian charts. His latest single “Come Back” (featuring Mariah Hostrander) as well as the EP “Tragedies & Miracles” (featuring members of Rich Mullins’ old band “A Ragamuffin Band”) are available on iTunes. You can find out more at www.chrispick.bandcamp.com. Pick resides in Amish Country, PA, along with his wife Michelle (a Fifth Grade teacher in Central PA) and their 17-month-old daughter Erica. You can contact him at
chrispick@gfavolunteer.org or follow Pick on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Pick-fan-page/310118944421), Twitter (www.twitter.com/pickchris), or at Reverb Nation (www.reverbnation.com/chrispick).

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