Editorial - Eulogy for the Elder Statesman of Heavy Metal - Ronnie James Dio
Metal Reviews

Release year: 0
Reviewed by Marty
The little man with the huge voice has been taken from us. Ronnie James Dio succumbed to the complications of stomach cancer last Sunday, May 16th at 7:45 am surrounded by loved ones and friends, many of whom had the chance to say their final goodbyes. Rumours started late last Saturday that he had taken a turn for the worse with Wendy Dio even issuing a statement to the contrary. A few weeks back, it seemed like he was going to beat the cancer as Heaven and Hell dates had been booked for this summer. The very recent and sudden cancellation of any and all tour plans was not a good sign and myself, like many others had began to brace ourselves for the very real possibility of having to live in a world without him. Early last Sunday we awakened to the very sad news of his passing.

Born Ronald James Padavona, Ronnie got his start in the late 50's and early 60's doing rockabilly with Ronnie and the Prophets actually enjoying some local commercial success. They disbanded in 1967 with Ronnie going on to form the Electric Elves and eventually Elf who enjoyed many opening slots for major bands including Deep Purple. When Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple in early 1975, he quickly scooped up Ronnie to front his new band Rainbow. Recording three classic albums Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, Rising and Long Live Rock 'N Roll as well as the classic live album Live On Stage, they were a top concert draw in the mid to late 70's. Ronnie's booming voice, amazing stage presence and persona were a huge influence on those to come after. Leaving Rainbow in 1979, he joined up with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward as Ozzy's replacement in Black Sabbath, recording the classics Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules. Dio left to pursue his own solo career in 1982 and was hugely successful with albums like Holy Diver and The Last In Line. He quickly became "the elder statesman" of heavy metal and released many solo albums throughout the 80's, 90's and even into the 2000's. He reunited with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice for Dehumanizer in 1991 and recently a few years back, reunited again only under the moniker of Heaven and Hell. Extensive touring followed as well as a new album The Devil You Know. It was shortly after the tour finished late last year that Ronnie was diagnosed with stomach cancer and embarked on one of the hardest battles of his life.

It's been a week now and the tributes, salutes and praise for this man are still pouring in. He was the champion of "the little guy" and often went out of his way to do things for others. When lesser-known bands were booked as openers for his Dio solo band, he would seek out info and try to hear some songs from the band before meeting them. On more than one occasion, I've read about bands that were flabbergasted by the fact that not only did Ronnie know about them, he often had heard a few tracks and was familiar enough with their songs. He prided himself in "showing others the ropes" in a business that can be nasty at times. With his wife Wendy, they had formed Niji Management and at one time had a fairly extensive repertoire of artists they represented. He was also a smart and shrewd business man; looking after his own affairs. He always had time for a chat or for advice to other artists over a couple of glasses of wine and would always find time to meet the fans regardless of schedules, other commitments etc. He never forgot where he came from and what it took to get there.

Musically, Ronnie seemed very much at home in the hard rock/heavy metal genre. He was one of the first to popularize the "devil horns" when he fronted Black Sabbath; giving heavy metal fans worldwide a universal "metal salute". While not being particularly religious, he often wrote about the forces of good and evil and championed personal freedoms, freedom of choice and individuality. In Ronnie's words, it was "a light in the black, heaven or hell, evil or divine". Life always presents us with a series of choices. It's ultimately up to each individual to choose the right path and not let the choice be forced upon us or to be made by others.

Ronnie also hated prejudice and conflict, feeling that they were wasted energy that could be put to better use. He gave tirelessly to many different charities throughout the years as well as founding Children of the Night to benefit runaway children. In 1985 he rallied many of the current heavy metal heroes to check their egos at the door and participate in the Hearing Aid project for African Famine Relief by recording the heavy metal ensemble track Stars. Everyone who had ever met or was friends with Ronnie have nothing but great things to say about the man. He was a role model, a great human being and was one of the most electrifying and consistently solid performers in rock history. I saw him 4 or 5 times over the years either with Black Sabbath/Heaven and Hell or with his solo band Dio and each and every time, he always had a huge smile, gave it 100% and seemed to be enjoying himself even with smaller crowds/sound P.A. issues etc. it didn't matter to him. People had paid to come to see him and he never ever forgot that.

I was 16 years old when Elvis died and to me, the passing of Ronnie James Dio is a much bigger deal than that. He was an inspiration to me right from the first Rainbow album. When I first heard him sing, I couldn't believe such a big powerful voice could come out of someone of his small stature. Those of you who have seen or own the 1999 Deep Purple Concerto for Group and Orchestra DVD, will no doubt have seen Ronnie perform 2 tracks from Roger Glover's Butterfly Ball album from 1974. These two songs are about as far away from the heavy metal style that Dio was know for yet he nails the vocals with such professionalism and confidence that its simply staggering. He had the sort of voice that could handle any sort of music yet it was heavy metal that was dearest to his heart. He also was fortunate enough to have played with some of the best musicians in the world including 2 of the greatest guitarists of all time Ritchie Blackmore and Tony Iommi.

We have lost the little man with the huge voice....and an even bigger heart. His was larger than life and his legacy will live on through the vast back catalogue of music he has left behind and the people whose lives he touched either directly or indirectly through his music. Ronnie was also in the middle of working on Magica II and III with his Dio solo band. Rumours are that some of the music from those sessions was finished and will someday be released. Ronnie James Dio meant many things to many people and we all share with his friends and family, the grief and sadness of his passing. There will be a Public Memorial Service for Ronnie James Dio on Sunday, May 30th at 2:00 PM at The Hall Of Liberty located at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles, CA.

Heavy metal has lost its Elvis...... RIP RJD

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Killing Songs :
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Other albums by Editorial that we have reviewed:
Editorial - Care to Show Your Support for Metal Reviews? reviewed by Alex and quoted
Editorial - The End of Metal Maniacs (??!!) and Metal Media as We Know It reviewed by Alex and quoted
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