Remembering Ronnie James Dio, three years after his passing
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, today is May 16th. Why is that significant? Only that on this day, 3 years ago, the world lost not only one of the greatest metal singers, but one of the greatest men of all time. On this day in 2010, the legendary Ronnie James Dio, the Man on the Silver Mountain, The Holy Diver, Master of the Moon, transcended this mortal coil. Not everyone is a fan of any of his work, but his influence is undeniable. The man who brought the metal horns to metal.
First, his work with Rainbow, which propelled him into a more public eye after some more obscure bands. He recorded three albums with Rainbow before being replaced due to his lyrical style not being what Ritchie Blackmore wanted. The second of those three, Rising, is a masterpiece, and the third, Long Live Rock and Roll, is not far behind. Songs like “Run With the Wolf”, “Long Live Rock and Roll”, “Gates of Babylon”, and the utter magic that is “Stargazer” gave Dio some early brilliance to his credit. He also recorded one live album with the band.
From there, Dio was hired as Ozzy Osbourne’s replacement in Black Sabbath, who were, at the time, running on fumes seemingly at the end of their brilliance. Dio came along, and the band then produced the masterpiece album Heaven and Hell, then followed it with the near-masterwork The Mob Rules. “Heaven and Hell”, “Die Young“, “Falling Off the Edge of the World“, “Sign of the Southern Cross“, “Mob Rules“, “Neon Knights“, “Voodoo“, “Lonely is The Word“, and “Children of the Sea” are among the great tunes that were gifted upon the world from this (un)holy combination. Certainly, parts of it were the gods Iommi and Butler as well, but make no mistake: Dio was an integral part of that magic.
Unfortunately, Dio was fired after a dispute over mixing on the Live Evil album. Did he care? No. He took drummer Vinny Appice and set out on a solo career. This choice resulted in the album Holy Diver, which is a masterpiece (are you seeing a pattern here?). “Holy Diver“, “Rainbow in the Dark“, “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, and “Stand Up and Shout” are among others some of the best rock and roll of the era. Dio then released Last In Line, an excellent album, which contained the affirmation many already knew. The song that loudly proclaimed “WE ROCK!”.
And rock he did. He released several more solo albums, including the forgotten-yet-excellent Lock Up the Wolves, before rejoining Black Sabbath again for the Dehumanizer album. It is a solid release with some great material though is only a ghost of the former glory the foursome had achieved. Dio went back to solo albums, releasing more excellent albums in the form of Magica, Killing the Dragon, and Master of the Moon. From those albums we were gifted songs such as “One More For the Road“, “Killing the Dragon“, “Fever Dreams”, “Master of the Moon“, and “Shivers”. The now legendary man still had it in him, but none of those were quite masterpieces. It turns out, he still had one of those in him, however.
In 2007, he reunited with Black Sabbath again, this time under the name Heaven and Hell, touring live and performing songs from the three albums they did together, plus three new songs that were included in the compilation that triggered the reunion. The tour was a massive success, spawning an excellent live album that showed the world that the band members were still masters of their craft even into their 60s. Then in 2009, they convened to record a new album. What was created was the monster known as The Devil You Know, which is widely considered one of the best doom albums of the 21st century. Yep, men whose collective age was well over 200 made an album that blew everyone away. It was another masterpiece for Dio’s discography.
Sadly, Dio soon fell ill with leukemia, and never recovered. He passed away on May 16th 2010, at approximately 7:45am in Los Angeles. At the time he took ill, Heaven and Hell were planning to record another album, and Dio also had plans to release a sequel to the Magica album. His solo band is still continuing on as the Dio Disciples, performing live with Ripper Owens doing the vocal duties.
Dio was a master lyricist and an amazing frontman. He always knew how to get the crowd into the show, and was always animated on stage, even into his twilight years. His lyrics were always able to touch a part of your soul with their stories and wordings. His voice was completely unique and extremely emotive and he preserved its power right up until his death, rare for signers that reach his age.
Music aside, Dio was, by all accounts, a kickass person. I personally never had the opportunity to meet him, but many who have said he was amazingly friendly and always ready to talk.
So today of all days, crack open a drink, raise a pint, crank up the music, kill a dragon, or whatever you wish to do, and toast one of the true legends, the metal god himself, Ronnie James Dio. His passing was a profound loss, though his music and spirit will always live on. He may have been 67, but he still died too young. His magic will never die.
Always remember; “sail on sing a song carry on ’cause we rock”