PORTSMOUTH, Va. -- Dion Langley doesn’t just play the drums. He pounces on them.
The musician from Portsmouth was drawn to the drums as a child. He started playing in his family’s gospel group and hasn’t stopped.
“It takes you to a whole new level musically," the 42-year-old drummer said. “I fell in love with it. It is the best feeling ever.”
His talents caught the ears of bands across Hampton Roads.
“Drumming is my job. That is how I make a living," he said.
But about 12 years ago his performances were taking their toll.
He said he began to tire easily and lost a lot of weight.
His symptoms grew worse until one day he collapsed after a show.
“Scariest feeling ever. Thought I was going to die,” he said.
Doctors then dropped a heavy diagnosis -- lupus.
Lupus is a disease that affects the joints, brain, heart, and lungs.
There is no known cure.
“I cried. I panicked because I didn’t know. I cried. Terrible feeling,” Langley said. “In 2012, I was told I wouldn’t play drums again because lupus got so bad.”
Dion’s uncle and mentor Frank “Hot Shot” Rodgers said nothing, not even a life-altering disease, will unplug his nephew.
“He goes hard whether it is practice or gigs. I knew right then that he was going to be a great drummer one day because he had great timing and rhythm. When I see him behind the drum set I see a different life,” Hot Shot said. “Like he won the lottery.”
Langley is using his music as a platform.
“I block out everything around me. It is my safe place. I tell everyone that drums are my safe place,” he said. “Lupus needs an identity. People need to know how serious lupus is.”
This spring the drummer released his first song with an appropriate title.
“I used to want to be the best drummer in the world. That was my goal. But I tell people I am drumming to a different beat and that is to beat lupus,” Langley said.
He said his disease may rob his ability to play.
“Being a drummer with lupus is like the most difficult thing ever because I exert so much energy on stage,” he said.
But until that day, Langley promises to keep the beat.
“You have to face reality,” he said. “My body isn’t as strong as it used to be.”
Because this drummer doesn’t want the song to end.
“If you told me that 10 years ago I never would have imagined that. To have a CD and the musical growth of where I’ve been and where God has taken me I cannot complain at all.”
Dion Langley’s CD “Beat it Like a Drum” is available now on many streaming platforms. He also released a clothing line with inspirational messages about beating lupus.
We would like to thank the owners of Redemption Studio in Chesterfield for allowing Dion to play the drums at their studio.
You can also watch Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" reports Thursdays on CBS 6 News at 6 p.m.
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