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The Friday Morning Listen: Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell

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My introduction to Ronnie James Dio came not with Black Sabbath's Heaven And Hell but with Rainbow's On Stage. Yeah, I'm sure I had heard other things sung by Ronnie at that point (because radio hadn't yet taken the last train to suckville), but the sheer power of Ronnie launching into "Kill The King" after the brief explosion of "Over The Rainbow"? It was something alright. Something I had never heard before.

Not long after Ozzy took his leave, Sabbath brought Dio into the fold and produced the classic Heaven And Hell. The record's brilliance was undeniable, and I played the hell out of it for years to come. As much as I love the original Sabbath lineup (and the first handful of Black Sabbath records are among the best the metal genre has produced), there was something almost alchemical about the combination of Tony Iommi's giant guitar chords and Dio's huge vocals.

And that was the funny thing. Ronnie James Dio's vocals were huge, even if his body was not. It was quite a spectacle to witness the man singing, with all of that sound coming out of that little body.

I was lucky enough to see Black Sabbath on the Heaven And Hell tour. Me and my buddy Tyler saw them at the Bangor Auditorium. It never said it in the paper the next day but I'm pretty sure that the auditorium's structure had been altered by the sound pressure levels. The music was heavy and brutal. Dio's voice was every bit up to the task. That was the thing about Dio. He didn't just scream. He could actually sing — at all levels, from delicate phrasing to otherworldly growl.

Dio's death came as a huge surprise to me. I didn't even know he had been ill. The weird thing is that just a few days before his passing, I stumbled onto an interesting fact. Obviously, I knew about Sabbath, Rainbow, and Elf. I did not know about Ronnie Dio & the Prophets…or Ronnie & the Red Caps. That's right. Before Dio made moves toward being the best metal singer of all time, he was into doo-wop! So I was up late one night, watching an interview on YouTube with Blue Oyster Cult's Eric Bloom. Bloom was friends with Ronnie back in the day and knew all about these doo-wop groups. He also said, with a big grin on his face, that Ronnie didn't like to talk about it. Yeah, I bet!

Anyway, it was a sad day in the world of rock when Ronnie James Dio left the earth. His was a unique voice and I'll always miss it.


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About Mark Saleski

  • A great reminder of all that he accomplished. I’m going to miss him.
    Thanks Mark.

  • Listened to Sign of the Southern Cross this morning. Been a week of Dio , for sure.

  • stewart homer

    A fantastic singer and front man i have been a fan of his since i first heard him with rainbow he will be sadley missed he was a great ambassador of rock music .
    He will live on in music forever godbless
    Ronnie gone but not forgotten.

  • Tom Johnson

    Huge loss. His voice practically defined what a metal vocalist should sound like. And Dio was just a cool guy from all accounts that I’ve seen (long time fan and friend Eddie Trunk has a really nice piece about him here.) I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a negative word written about the guy, now that I think about it. Amazing and sad that he was still going strong so recently and now is gone.

  • i listened to several of the Dio & the Prophets songs…you can hear just a bit of what he went on to sound like. kinda cool.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “I’m so tired of people in this country only giving a shit about someone after they have died!”

    I mean when they become sick or after they have died…

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Nice Article…
    Yea, I too was completely unaware of his sickness and only found out about his death on Monday morning which f*cked my whole day up. But I am kinda glad that the media didn’t get a hold of that private information. I’m so tired of people in this country only giving a shit about someone after they have died! [That wasn’t towards you Mark]
    Anyways, He may have felt embarrassed about his Doo-Wop days but I think that helped him shape his style & range. Hell, I freakin love Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Imagine if that guy got into Metal?!