A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio
Born Ronald James Padavona
Passed away on Sunday, May 16th at the age of 67 after battling stomach cancer.

I just got a phone message and am still in shock as I write this…

The Godfather of Heavy Metal, Mr. Ronnie James Dio, he of short stature and mighty vocal chords passed away Sunday morning.

After singing in bands since the late 50’s, Dio started Rainbow with Deep Purple‘s Richie Blackmore, taking all but his previous band Elf‘s guitarist. In the late 70’s Dio took over vocal duties from Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath and most recently rejoined Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler with his longtime drummer Vinnie Appice as Heaven and Hell. He is most widely known as front man for his own band Dio where he released ten studio albums.

Dio took his stage name from mobster Johnny Dioguardi and it is also the Latin word for God. He is widely recognized as the first to throw the “metal horns” or “devil sign”, which he explained was also the sign to ward off the evil eye. His music has influenced countless musicians as heard on Holy Dio: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio, and in the music of Queensryche and Metallica among many others.

You’d think Dio was going to live forever such was the energy he put into his music and his presence on stage. But sadly, even the mighty Dio is not invincible. His music will live on in the memories of several generations of music fans.

I had the pleasure to speak with Mr. Dio years ago for Highwire Daze magazine. He used my name when answering my questions and was a gentleman. His wife Wendy was also his manager and you could see them together at such places as the Foundations Forum where Dio spoke of his time on the road and as a musician. I first saw Dio at the Forum when I was 14 or 15. The stage was suitably medieval with many levels and stairs for Dio to run up and down. Appice’s drums were insane and wrapped completely around the mighty percussionist. Dragons appeared at the sides of the stage and breathed fire! Lasers shot out at the audience dazzling our eyes! Guitars were flung, magical lyrics were sung at tops of lungs and it was a wondrous time to be had.

Some of his most well-known songs are “Man on the Silver Mountain”, “Stargazer“, “Heaven and Hell”, “The Mob Rules”, “Long Live Rock’n’Roll”, “Rainbow in the Dark”, “Holy Diver”, “Last in Line”, “We Rock”, “Gypsy” and countless others.

I’ve since seen Dio live, most recently as part of Heaven and Hell along with Megadeth and Machine Head and they were in top form. But it was his first few albums as Dio that really stick in my mind and the music got me through some troubled teenage times. You didn’t feel awkward or shy or miserable listening to Dio. He got you, he was your friend and the album covers were perfect for the Dungeons & Dragons players the world over. Ronnie James Dio was the little wizard casting his musical magical spells over the ears of music fans the world over for decades and now I’m tearing up because he’s passed to the great beyond, the unknown after this world but I can only imagine if there is a heaven he’s there smiling at us all, waving his metal horns in protection of the generations to come.

“So just hold on
You can make it happen for you
Reach for the stars and you can fly

You’re hungry for heaven
But you need a little hell”

“Hungry For Heaven”

(Bret Miller – 05/17/10)

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