Remembering Ronnie James Dio

As Tony Iommi is known for being the father of the “heavy metal” guitar sound, his on-again, off-again Black Sabbath band mate in Ronnie James Dio is considered the father of the “heavy metal” vocal style. There was no one else like him at the time and close to fifty years later you can still hear his influence loud and clear.

The first time I heard of Ronnie James was when I was living in Germany on the Gov’t dime (USAF – Bitburg) and the NWOBHM was just starting to hit the states. In short order, I realized that, while this was something new for my friends back home, the genre had been well established in Europe. Bands like Samson (w/ Bruce Dickenson on vocals pre-Iron Maiden, also a heavy weight of the genre with singer Paul Di’Anno) Saxon, Judas Priest and several other lesser-known bands that never quite translated their European success back here in the states: Diamond Head, Girlschool, Nightwing and Tygers Of Pan Tang, just to name a few. To the general population, these bands are probably more known for their heavy influence on the music of Metallica than for their music itself, but they were considered commonplace in Germany.

And then came Holy Diver. I had first heard, and heard of, Ronnie James Dio via his stint with Rainbow and even back then I remember being blown away with his power as a vocalist. To be honest, however, I was not a huge fan of what I considered “classical metal.” I didn’t hate it; it was just a style that I wasn’t into all that much. But Holy Diver was something different.

Very few albums give me goose bumps at first listen, but Holy Diver did exactly that. The sound of the opening riff from the title track was something I hadn’t heard before. It’s hard to put into words; it was just the “hugeness” of guitar sound, and it’s the first time outside of first hearing Eddie Van Halen that I seriously entertained the thought of learning the instrument. At that time, I had a good fifteen years as a drummer under my belt, learning at the age of eight from my dad who drummed in a few Jazz bands during his high school and college days. Up to that time in my life, I hadn’t taken it that seriously, but that wall all about to change when I heard Dio – the man and the band.

Very few musicians can stand the test of time. Ronnie James Dio is one of those musicians. Listen to and/or read any of his myriad interviews and you can’t help but feel like you know the man personally. Several of those in the music industry press who have had the honor of conducting said interviews have become close friends with the man because of his ‘common man’ vibe and attitude. If it’s one thing that can be said of Ronnie James Dio, it’s that he’s never suffered from L.S.D. – Lead Singer’s Disease. One interview in particular drove that fact home when he recounted a story where a certain guitar player he never named (clearly he was referring to Blackmore but as classy as Dio is, he never said his name) made it a point to blow off fans because, as this guitar player put it (paraphrasing) “if you do it for one fan, you end up spending hours singing your name and I don’t have the time…”. As Dio put it, “that’s ridiculous because without the fans, we’re nothing; I’m nothing.”

“Without the fans, we’re nothing; I’m nothing.”

No truer words were ever spoken and while I’m sure that all bands/musicians claim the same mind-set, percentage wise there aren’t many bands that actually step up and put their money where their mouths are and Ronnie James Dio is one of those musicians. And it’s that attitude that has made Dio such a hugely popular figure in the world of metal, both with the fans and industry peers alike.

Thank you, Ronnie James Dio. Thank you for all the fantastic music you created. Thank you for your humanity towards the fan. Thank you for all you’ve done for the metal genre and music in general, and above all, thank you for all the great memories you’ve given all of us.

You’re a rainbow in the dark and will be missed.

Ronnie James Dio – 1942 – 2010

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2 Responses to “Remembering Ronnie James Dio”

  1. samer touma Says:

    hi i have no words to describe my pain inside to lost this great humble person ronnie was for me the best voice of all thee decades he makes me feel good when im listening to him all a i say GOD MAY REST HIS SOUL and hes gonna living iside oue rearts all the time thank you ronnie for the magic u giving us i love you till the last breath im from nazareth city

  2. Sal Adelfio Says:

    When Heaven & Hell came out back in ’79 I was convinced that this was one of the all-time great rock albums of all time – and I was right ! Classic tracks as Neon Knights, Heaven & Hell, Children of The Sea, Lady Evil…the whole album – was just pure Heavy metal, and at the center of it was Dio ! He was the ” Pacorotti of Metal” such power – at maximum volume you could feel your chest vibrate ! I think he brought out the best in Iomi, Butler and Ward – well, Ozzy was quite messed up prior to leaving Sabbath…NOW they had to be on par with Dio ; a true vocalist !

    As with most things/people – you mostly appreciate them when they are gone, lost or stolen . Such is the case with Ronnie James Dio . I cannot call myself a fan of his, ( an admirer – of course ), but I always new he was great . At times I felt he over-did his performance, ( I saw Heven & Hell live 2 years ago – they opened for Priest ), I remember imitating him in jest as I was leaving the show – he was quite animated with the hand jestures – but I certainly didn’t mean it maliciously . Now – looking back – I am so glad I saw him that one time. He was a true gentleman, a master, and …I will miss him .

    And now…I am a fan .

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