Ronnie James Dio died today, aged 67, following a battle with stomach cancer. His wife Wendy posted this message on the official website.
Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.
– Wendy Dio
Tiny in stature, huge of voice. He was one of the giants of rock music. As the original vocalist in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, he was one of the few people to take on the Man in Black (metal division) head on and come out with his dignity and integrity unscathed. His work on those first three albums (and especially “Rising”) stands today as a glorious high spot in the careers of those concerned.
His tenure with Black Sabbath restored some much needed respect to a band whose reputation was beginning to appear somewhat tarnished. I’d say he actually saved that reputation. Listen to “Never Say Die” if you dare. And then listen to “Heaven and Hell”. I guarantee you that within thirty seconds of “Neon Knights” you’ll be astonished that a band that had drifted so badly could suddenly be back on top of their game. That was him. The great facilitator. He brought out the best in people. He drove them crackers doing it, but he made it all work.
They may have disintegrated in tatters, but when the “Mob Rules” lineup reconvened for “Dehumaniser” in the early nineties, he did it again. And then just to prove that he could, he did it again over the last few years with the Heaven and Hell project.
Dio the band – after “Holy Diver” anyway – didn’t do much for me, I’m afraid. That’s more me than anything to do with him – I sort of drifted away in a peculiar attempt to pretend that sort of gloriously silly brand of hard rock was something I’d grown out of. I was wrong of course. I’m listening to assorted tracks now and it sounds damn good to me. Sorry, Ronnie.
Various memories surface at random tonight. His joyous vocal on Roger Glover’s “Love Is All” from The Butterfly Ball album. Comporting himself with wit, grace and humour in “Metal – A Headbanger’s Odyssey”. A classic Kerrang picture with the caption “Ronnie James Dio (tiny person patent elevator shoes just out of shot)”. Playing Dr X on Queensryche’s “Operation Mindcrime II”. Offering advice in Poster Form at the start of “The Pick of Destiny”. Being the only man who could sing the patently bollocks lyrics that litter “Stargazer” on Rainbow Rising and for the duration of the thing make you believe in Wizards building towers and then falling off them. It’s bloody ludicrous stuff but when he sings it, it doesn’t matter. Metal is frequently a matter of titanic self-belief and Ronnie had it. He knew that if you ever looked down after you’d run off the cliff you’d Wile E. Coyote to your doom. He never looked down. Not once.
Even when what he did seemed out of step with the times, we always held him personally in the highest regard. I understood his reasons for refusing to perform when Ozzy asked Sabbath to play Costa Mesa. The fact that in so doing he gave me my dream rock lineup – Sabbath with Rob Halford on vocals – is a mere bonus. His desire to protect the dignity of a band that seemed all too often to be hell-bent on destroying any goodwill they may have gathered around themselves – well, it was laudable. Dedication like that is rare.
He’ll be missed. The idea of that voice being silenced forever… it’s a sad night for this old Metal fan. To judge by the number of comments on his Facebook page tonight, I’m not the only one missing him.
The world is full of kings and queens, who’ll blind your eyes and steal your dreams, it’s heaven and hell…
Goodnight, Ronnie. And Thank you.