I can hardly believe the words myself, but yes, the news is indeed true and the Metal world has lost one of its most inspiring titans as Ronnie James Dio, The Godfather Of Heavy has died at age 67. Back in November of 2009 it was reported that Ronnie had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and he quickly began to get treated for it and according to most reports was on the mend if not a little worse for wear from the treatments. Sadly, the battle that this brave warrior king would fight would not be all that long and he would succumb to the illness and pass from this plane on Sunday morning 5/16/2010.
The singer was nothing less than an icon and a man who lived, breathed and pretty much existed Heavy Metal music on a daily basis and while he was born Ronald James Padavona back in 1942, it was the name Dio that resonated like a thunderclap across the music geography of the world.
I first learned of Dio when he was the singer for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. It was a birthday of mine, and a friend had bought me the “Long Live Rock & Roll” LP from that band based on its having Cozy Powell on drums, and as he said “two other amazing musicians that I needed to pay more attention to as a Metal fan”. Of course I knew full well about Ritchie from his Deep Purple days, but Dio was quite new to me at the time but once I heard what was coming out of him I was sold and have remained a fan ever since.
Despite our use of the words “legend” and “icon” to describe the man and his wonderful accomplishments and contributions that were made to the music he so strongly believed in, he was still just a mortal man at the end of the day. I say it like this based on the overall humility that was found in him during radio or televised interviews and even those found in print or online sources. He always seemed to be a genuine person and while I never was fortunate enough to meet him in person, I could recognize the warmth in his character from the photos I not only saw elsewhere but in the ones I took for myself as a music photojournalist. His was truly the gaze of nobility and with his death Heavy Metal has lost one of its Royal Family.
I must admit that while just a tad envious of others who “do what I do” or something akin to it, I did recollect a moment that I wanted to share with you all. Heaven and Hell were headlining out in the Jones Beach Ampitheatre at a gig that also featured Queensryche and Alice Cooper and it was interestingly enough my very first time getting to photograph a set by any band at this venue. There was no photo pit so I was pressed up against a gate that security stood behind which separated the fans from the stage and hence the band. When the bands come on it gets rather tight with those folks who leave the seats to get an inch or three closer pushing up against you let me tell you that much.
So anyways, I have to think quick because those of you who see how this whole thing operates with the media peoples and photographers realize that we only have a few short minutes to do our thing and then leave that area. With all the people pushing and shoving it would only get worse when one of the band members got close to the stage edge and of course Mr. Dio loved coming up that far to wave or shake hands with the fans. Anyways, at some points I was just pointing and pressing the button on the camera since the lights flashing and people pushing was making me more focused on not losing the camera. One hand was in the air holding the gear and the other was up in the air protecting it and then suddenly, someone had my hand from above!!! I felt that maybe I nudged the security guy or something but when I looked up I was gazing right at Dio who had my hand clutched in his own and was smiling down. I guess I looked more excited than I realized but either way, I smiled back at him and he continued on down the line of people in that region. That was the closest I ever came to meeting the singer, but despite this is a story and experience I would never forget and recant to friends and readers in these narrative thoughts. I feel if you were someone who met him and spoke to him outside of a show that you are and were a very lucky person.
When one reflects upon the musical contributions of Dio to the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal genre, the results are staggering and take several moments to absorb. As I mentioned earlier, my first exposure to his talents was with the band Rainbow and if you have not yet paid their work any mind, I suggest that you do so immediately. A few of my favorite Rainbow songs ever are Dio sung ones and I think you will agree when you hear “Man On The Silver Mountain”, “Kill The King” and “Stargazer”. We’ve reviewed a few of the Rainbow releases that Dio was featured on, so if you would like to learn our thoughts on these albums, just click the band’s logo below to see all of this content on PiercingMetal.com
There are three studio efforts with Ronnie on them in the Rainbow catalog and each of them are recommendations that you will never regret purchasing.
I wanted to take the time to present any coverage that we had offered up for the body of work that Ronnie James Dio gave us over the years and while we have a substantial amount of it, there are a number of things missing because we were not working in this role at the time of its initial release. There is always the future in terms of website reviews of course. I will begin with the stuff we reviewed from his prolific band Dio. I remember the day that I bought my “Holy Diver” LP and how loud I blasted it (much to my parents chagrin). It’s an album that needs to find a special edition remaster released and actually they should issue the first few albums since they were so amazing. What I liked the most about the early Dio recordings was how the songs were stories that took us all to mystical worlds and with Ronnie as our guide there was never anything to fear. Click the bands logo below to check out any Dio content on the website. We’ve reviewed several of the later CD’s and Videos along with some concerts. My personal favorite are the first two solo albums that he did which were “Holy Diver” and “The Last In Line”. I had some fave tracks on “Sacred Heart” and these have remained special to me for many years. I caught Dio during the “Sacred Heart” tour and he had Rough Cutt opening up for him. I remember being blown away by Dio and his stage show (that even featured a dragon) and while Rough Cutt was on my friends and I kept checking our watches as we counted down the minutes until Dio’s arrival.
Scrolling backward a little bit to what went on before the solo career we come to Dio’s tenure in the legendary Black Sabbath. When Ronnie replaced Ozzy Osbourne in the band back in 1979, the resultant Metal output was something truly extraordinary. It was tough for the die hard fans to accept this at first but when the first collaboration together came out they realized that something special was a brewing. That first album is the amazing “Heaven And Hell”. It was followed by “Mob Rules” and then a live concert release called “Live Evil” that showcased that tour and found Ronnie also doing some of the legacy Sabbath classics in his own style. Sadly it would end with that and Ronnie would move on and embark on that amazing solo career that we just referenced above. Time does heal all wounds and he would return to their roster to record and release “Dehumanizer” in 1992 but again the project was only something briefly done before he went back to his solo work. Rhino Records remastered all of the Dio Years Black Sabbath music in 2008 and made them available to fans in a boxed set or on their own. There was also a “hits package” that preceded these remasters released in 2006 and that album featured three new songs that showcased that this association might not be over yet. Our views on these remastered editions can be found by clicking the logo link below, but please note that the query searches all Black Sabbath content, so you will have to pick amidst the list to see those that RJD took part in. I was sad that I never saw him perform with Black Sabbath back during their initial working together but oh well, one cannot always see the shows that they want to when it comes down to it. As many of the Metal fans of the time, I to was a little hesitant about Ronnie filling in the shoes of Ozzy Osbourne, but when the power of tunes like “Neon Knights”, “Mob Rules”, “Sign Of The Southern Cross” and so many of the others sunk in, I knew that all fans of the genre were going to benefit from this association.
Heaven And Hell: After the release of that “Black Sabbath: The Dio Years” collection, it seemed as though Ronnie and the Black Sabbath guys realized that there was still work to be done and Metal to be released. They renamed themselves “Heaven And Hell” like the famous album and this was a smart move since it gave them a new life to begin with for the genre. They would tour extensively with the classics from the earlier three albums and those three new tunes before eventually releasing “The Devil You Know”. That album’s release found the touring even more rigorous and the legacy along with new generations of fans entertained beyond their wildest imaginations. Any coverage of the Metal juggernaut known as Heaven And Hell can be found by clicking their logo link. Since not every tour that we attended found them as headliner, we are also delivering to you a Photo Gallery query HERE so you can enjoy any of the photographs that we snapped of the band in concert. As you might expect there are a lot of Ronnie images in there and how could we do anything less that present just how vibrant he was on the stage to the world. I will miss being able to take photos of him in concert very, very much. One has to wonder if there were any additional songs left over from the sessions for “The Devil You Know” since I am sure that the fans will be eager to have them available now.
It’s truly hard to process the loss of one of the real heroes in the Heavy Metal music scene but perhaps we can find some comfort in the realization that Ronnie loved all of his fans very much and also believed in the genre and was a fierce advocate for it. He was our Godfather when it came down to it and everyone listened when he spoke to us. I think one of the most difficult things to grasp is the fact that we shall never see him in concert again nor hear him singing our favorite tunes. He will live on forever in our music libraries and hearts but that will not stop the pain – at least for awhile. Ronnie James Dio is survived by his wife and manager Wendy Dio and several hundred thousand Heavy Metal fans around the world. May you rest in peace Ronnie, you were one of the very best of them all, and your memory shall serve to strengthen us in the days going forward. Watch out for us all and help us keep the spirit of Metal strong. You might not be with us anymore but I am kind of convinced that your powers are suddenly all the more potent.
It surely seems appropriate to close out these memorial thoughts with an image that is so greatly associated with the man, the legend, the icon – The Horns. Raise ’em up Legions. Let Ronnie see ya.
What did Ronnie James Dio and his music and person mean to you as a fan of Metal music? I would love to hear your words and feelings on the passing of this great man. Talking about it and reflecting does a lot of good for the healing process they say, and I am in total agreement with this. Thanks for listening.
Official Website: http://www.ronniejamesdio.com