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Ronnie James Dio, RIP

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The outpouring of remembrances following the death Sunday of 67-year-old Ronnie James Dio has been nothing short of astounding. Every significant musician in rock and metal has issued statements talking about how huge of an influence Dio was to them, from his years in Elf and Rainbow, through Black Sabbath and his namesake band, and to his recent reuniting with Iommi and Butler for Heaven and Hell. And the fan outpouring has been tenfold that. It’s with good reason as he was truly the elder statesman of all that is metal.

I first heard Dio in a friend’s basement in my Fords, New Jersey, neighborhood, circa 1982. I was between 5th and 6th grade. So what could be better for a boy my age than a band called Black Sabbath? I was in awe of what I was hearing coming out of the speakers. It was the song “Heaven and Hell.” The guttural, pounding music, and the soaring majestic voice. That voice. Tom Morello said in a radio interview on Monday that it’s wrong to think that Dio had one of the greatest voices in metal. He had one of the greatest voices in music, period.

A few months later, Dio hit MTV with a video for “Rainbow In the Dark,” a shredder that not only cemented my admiration for Dio, but brought my love for heavy metal front and center. I am a big fan of music- many different kinds of music. But I am, and will always be, most passionate about hard rock and metal. And Dio played a big part of that.

From Holy Diver through Dream Evil, Dio was the soundtrack to my formative years. My friends Mark and Perry were also big fans. Perry even went so far as to get an Elf CD. That’s dedication to Dio! And though I knew the band Rainbow primarily from Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet years, I went back and grabbed some of the Dio work. I would also give a shout out to WSOU in Seton Hall, which played “Long Live Rock N’ Roll” as a bumper to their station ID, ad nauseum.

I strayed from metal in the alternative glut of the early to mid 1990’s, but “re-discovered” it by the close of the millennium. I saw Dio for the first and only time in 2001 at Janus Landing in St. Petersburg, Florida. As expected, he was amazing. His voice had not lost any of its dynamic range. I missed Heaven and Hell when they played down here a couple years ago, but figured I’d catch them on their next tour. Definite regrets on that one.

Dio will be remembered for many things: one of the flag bearers of an oft-maligned and underappreciated genre of music, for popularizing the devil horns, an all-around gentleman, a philanthropist, godfather of heavy metal, and for one of the best lines in the history of music, “The world is full of kings and queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams.”

Long live rock n’ roll indeed.

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About Scott Deitche

  • Greg Barbrick

    I missed Heaven And Hell last year also, and just figured I would catch them next time. What a bummer.

    The first time I heard him was on the Rainbow double live album, great stuff!

    RIP Ronnie.

  • MikeDallas

    I did get to See Dio Finally 2 summers ago with Heaven n Hell ON lONG ISLAND.. TOTAL GREATNESS..
    RIP RJD . You will be missed

  • stephen jay

    I am a musician from Baltimore, MD. and Ronnie James Dio was one of my biggest influences back in the day and even now, he will be missed God bless R.I.P

  • stan dyer

    THE WORLD IS FULL OF KINGS AND QUEENS. HE OPENED OUR EYES AND LIVED OUR DREAMS!!
    RIP THE GREATEST VOCALIST OF ALL TIME

  • Tom

    I first heard “Man on the Silver Mountain” on the radio when I was 5 or 6. From there, a few years later, I’d heard the title track from “Heaven and Hell”. Through my teens, he was an important part of my life through some dark times. I saw him only once, myself. It was in 2003 with Iron Maiden and Motorhead. His legacy will live forever and his voice will always be heard wherever I live.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i’m pretty sure that the first Dio i ever heard was from Rainbow’s live album On Stage.

    the opening of Over The Rainbow into Kill The King was just incredible.

    then i saw Sabbath on the Heaven & Hell tour. what a voice.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Nice piece Scott. The first time I saw Dio was when his band Elf opened up for Deep Purple and ELO in the 70’s…which is to this day the loudest concert I’ve ever seen.

    Greg Barbrick (who commented above) also knows the joke some of my friends shared back in the 80’s about “Dio’s locker” near our house on the beach in Steliacoom, WA. But that’s another story…

    Anyway, nice remembrances, and I’m glad somebody wrote something about him here in the BC music section. He’ll be missed for sure.

    -Glen

  • http://mrdigressius.blogspot.com/ Mr. Digressius

    “Who cares what came before?
    We were only starlight.
    One day . . . then nevermore,
    Because we’re
    whispers in the wind.

    Once upon a time,
    the world was never blind
    Like we are.

    Right now it seems
    You’re only dreams and shadows.
    If wishes could be
    eagles, how you’d fly!

    This is your life;
    This is your time.
    What if the flame
    won’t last forever?
    This is your here;
    This is your now.
    Let it be magical.”

    From “This Is Your Life” on the Angry Machines cd

  • Mike Kavis

    I first heard Dio in the late 70’s, I believe it was the Man on the Silver Mountain. At that age (born in ’65)I listened to just about anything. When Heaven and Hell came out, my jaw dropped. Every song on that album just blew me away. That is when I went back and bought everything Dio sang with Rainbow. When Holy Diver came out, I became so hooked on metal that I couldn’t listen to anything else. Then I discovered all of the Elf songs. Since his death, I have built a playlist on my iPod from all of his groups and have listened to nothing but those songs all week. When you string all those hits together I realized how amazing this guy was. I didn’t think I could be any more of a Dio fan but today I am a bigger fan than ever before. I will miss him, but his music will always be screaming through my head phones! I was fortunate to see his Holy Diver tour, the Sacred Heart tour, and the Dehumanizer tour.

  • nizamz

    It was a really sad day. I grew up with metal music and still a metalhead at 40, Dio gave a lot to me – his voice, music, album covers.. he is the greatest ever! I was lucky enough to catch Heaven & Hell live in Singapore a couple of years back & listening to heaven & hell even as i type..haven’t stop listening to Dio since Monday. RIP.

  • Timothy Menendez

    Scott,
    Like you, I also first heard of Dio when he was in Black Sabbath. Listening to the radio as I was going to sleep when I was a teenager and I heard Sign Of The Southern Cross. That was it for me. Have been a fan ever since. I fortunately got to see him 7x solo and 2x with Sabbath. I also met him 2x and you couldn’t have met a nicer guy. By the way, being from Tampa I enjoyed Cigar City Mafia in 2005.

  • Scott

    I read about Dio’s death on Yahoo on Sunday afternoon, and I’m really not ashamed to admit that I just burst into tears. Someone close to me made fun of me when I said I was devastated by Dio’s death, claiming that I didn’t know him personally or anything. True, but the man and his music changed my life. In early 1980, I was a 14 year old who listened to Kasey Kasem and the top 40, When I accidentally discovered Heaven and Hell because Columbia House sent me the wrong album, music would never be the same for me. I would never look back to cheesy pop music. RJD’s voice, his music, his message have influenced me immensely for thirty years of my life, and Heaven and Hell – the album – has never been out of my top five favorite albums of all time (and neither has “The Mob Rules”.
    Except for seeing the Beach Boys at the Marriott Center when I was twelve, Sabbath’s Mob Rules tour with the Outlaws opening for them at the Salt Palace was my very first concert.
    Rest in peace, RJD, and may your family and loved ones get through this sad time.

  • Tore

    R.I.P. Ronnie .Long Live Rock&Roll

  • san antonio

    R.I.P. RJD…U WILL 4 EVER ROCK!!!

  • mickey

    Its a sad day in heaven and hell.now your rainbow in the dark will be seen.

  • Sipon, Dhaka, Bangladesh

    I just can’t believe that DIO is no more. From today I will not talk to any stranger as DIO is no more to warn me.

    GOD Take the man to Heaven

  • Paul Roy

    I remember it like it was yesterday listening to the just released The Last In Line as my friends and I drove around to various parties on our high school graduation night in 1984. I finally got to see Dio play live back in 2002 when he opened for the Scorpions and Deep Purple. Guess who stole the show that night?

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    YES! Fantastic Article and ‘Bout Friggin Time!

    Scott, your words are so true & almost mirror my history with music though I never got to see this master musician in concert. The same, I love a lot of different styles of music(currently the heavy groove/rock/metal/jazz fusion has been hard to kick)but I am a lover of all things Metal and this man was a prime influence in my quest to make music my life. I can recall countless hours of listening to “Holy Diver” and Iron Maiden’s “Killers”(on my walkman) while riding on the bottom part of the cart in Vons while my Mom was grocery shopping. BUT, There really isn’t anything else I could say that hasn’t already been said,only, that if your ears were never graced with this man’s talent & passion or IF you don’t even know who he is then you can’t call yourself a music fan never mind a METAL HEAD!

    “When there’s lightning you know it always bring me down
    ’cause it’s free and I see that it’s me who’s lost and never found”

    R.I.P. ~Ronnie James Dio~ \m/ \m/

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *UGH* So much for the horns…

  • skynluvr

    rip ronnie!

  • Tony

    I loved Dio and saw him twice; once opening for Iron Maiden and the second time headlining with Sabbath. He was an amazing frontman, even in his 60s, and could still wail. But Ozzy is still the “elder-statesman” of all that is metal. Without those original Sabbath albums in the late 60s and early 70s there might not even be Drop D tuning, nevermind metal.