Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Ronnie James Dio | 1942-2010
On the 17th March, the headlines all over the rock and metal world were of the passing of one of the
most influential and unique figures ever to grace the world of music. Ronnie James Dio, one of the worlds most dazzling frontmen lost his on-going battle with stomach cancer suddenly after apparent improvements in his health. His wife Wendy broke the news on that morning:
“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.”
When I heard the news I was gobsmacked, just as it looked like he was improving, all of a sudden we are greeted by the news no-one wanted to hear. It is immensely saddening news in a year which has already been rocked by many high profile deaths in the music scene.
Every single piece of music which Dio touched glittered. He was a performer in every aspect of the word. And much more. How many artists can boast such a legacy as he has left behind? From bringing Black Sabbath out of a pit of languid musical desperation, helping develop the modern metal sound as we know it today with Rainbow and an unrivalled solo career to boot? Not many, if any at all.
From his blues-rock beginnings in ELF in which Dio got his breakthrough, he garnered the attention of a certain Mr. Blackmore of the recently deceased Deep Purple, and together with Cozy Powell they brought about one of the most influential hard rock bands ever to have existed.
I will never forget the first day I heard that riff on the opening song of my dad's haggard copy of 'Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow'. The song in question is of course 'Man on the Silver Mountain' and one of rock's all time greats. Of course Rainbow were always Ritchie's plaything so to speak, it was always his band, but what made the first three albums so seminal were Dio's powerful and passionate vocals and enthralling live performances. When Dio left Rainbow, they were never the same. Sure they had commercial success with Bonnet and Turner, but with Dio they lost that unique sound which was soon to play a huge influence on a new style of hard-rock arriving, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
Although the debut has a certain place in my affections, their best, and the best album Dio ever sang on in my opinion was the follow up, 'Rising'. Rising was, and still is an absolute monolith of heavy music. From the sheer vigour of the opener 'Tarot Woman' to the proto-power metal styling of the epic 'Stargazer', it remains to this day one of my favourite albums ever.
One of music's biggest injustices was the slating of Black Sabbath when Dio joined to replace Ozzy in 1980. Everyone claimed it was the end for Sabbath and refused to give them the time of day, and still do, such was the influence of Ozzy. What he did infact do with Heaven and Hell was act as a catalyst for pulling them out of the mire after two dreadful albums with Ozzy who was more interested in getting coked up. 'Heaven and Hell' is my personal favourite out of the two Dio era Black Sabbath albums, but they are both fantastic albums in their own right and deserved a lot more attention than they got.
After Sabbath, Dio began his solo project. Whereas previously Blackmore and Iommi were the string pullers,now he was able to do what he willed for once and developed the guise in which most of us heavy metal fans know him from now. And what a solo career it was, spanning from 1983 until the very day he passed, with ten solo albums under his belt, very few people can attest to having such a career as Ronnie did.
My top tracks and albums featuring Dio?
3.Long Live Rock and Roll
4.Heaven and Hell
5.Last in Line
6.Man on the Silver Mountain
7.Children of the Sea
10. A Light in the Black
2.Heaven and Hell
4.Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
5.Last in Line
One thing I will always regret is never getting to see Dio live. Whether it have been with Heaven and Hell or solo, I wouldn't have cared, and for that I will be forever kicking myself. Here's to one of the forerunners to Heavy Metal as we know it, one of the biggest personalities to ever grace modern music. Your legacy will never, ever be forgotten. Rest in peace Ronnie.
As a leaving note, I suggest you all watch this video.