Remembering Ronnie James Dio

6/10/42-5/16/10…As a metal fan…when I hear the name Ronnie James Dio…I immediately think of the “Metal Horns” hand gesture for which he is known for popularizing. When Ronnie (Otherwise known as DIO) passed away in May of 2010 of stomach cancer, the Heavy Metal community lost a true legend. As I sit here listening to the Black Sabbath Album…”Heaven and Hell”…it sends chills down my spine. I mean…Ozzy Osbourne was the face of Black Sabbath…but I am not sure there has ever been a band where a lead vocalist left and the band did not miss a beat. I mean, Ozzy does not come close to matching Ronnie as far as vocal intensity and range. Ronnie will always be known for his high range pitch and the knack for hitting every vocal note possible.
Ronnie was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1942. He graduated from the Cortland City School in 1960 and went on to attend pharmacy school. He would never finish as he started his own band. His first significant band was called “Elf”, which formed in 1969. Ronnie adopted the nickname “Dio” named after the mafia member, Johnny Dio.
While performing in the band Elf, Ronnie recorded 3 albums and was the main opening act for the band Deep Purple. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple took a liking to Dio’s vocals and recruited him for his own band when he left Deep Purple. The band was known as Rainbow. His time in Rainbow was short lived as he only stuck around for 2 albums. In 1979 Dio left Rainbow and took over for Ozzy as lead vocalist for Metal Legend Black Sabbath.
In 1980, Black Sabbath released the album Heaven and Hell, which revitalized the career of Black Sabbath. The album was a huge success and hit platinum in sales in just 6 years (1,000,000)! After Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath produced “The Mob Rules,” which was Dio’s 2nd and last album with Sabbath as their were disagreements between the band members.
At this point, Dio and Vinny Apice (Drummer) left and formed “DIO.”. The band featured Dio on vocals, Apice on Drums, Vivian Campbell (who later joined Whitesnake and Def Leppard) on guitar, and Jimmy Bain on Bass, Bain having played with Rainbow. The first album “Holy Diver” was released in 1982. Holy Diver hit 56 on the Billboard 200 in the US and hit #13 in the UK. The album featured the hit title track as well as the single Rainbow in the Dark. All in all, DIO released 10 Studio Albums and was constantly on tour until the band broke up and Ronnie formed “Heaven and Hell” which featured former Sabbath mates Geezer Butler and Toni Iommi along with Vinny Apice in 1986. Ronnie is also accredited for writing some of the very first power metal lyrics in metal music.
Ronnie also participated in many fund raisers during his career, the most notable being Hear n Aid, which was similar to Live Aid. A huge festival that was created to raise money for hunger. Ronnie is known for his deafening lyrics and powerful dark themes. Dio was a musical genius and will always live in the hearts of us metal die Garda.
Ronnie James Dio was more than a vocalist…he was a field general when it came to his stage presence. He was performing right up until his death. Dio is an Icon/ Legend/ Star Vocalist. He popularized his style. Heaven and Hell is one of the top metal albums. Pop it in your CD player and let it play straight up! Ronnie is truly a musical genius. He will never be forgotten.