Monday, May 17, 2010

Ronnie James Dio Remembered

A heavy-metal god, Ronnie James Dio has passed away at age 67. The heroic fantasy imagery popular in Dio's music heavily influenced my writing when I was young, and continues to do so to this day. Several Dio songs, and the entire Heaven and Hell album: The Devil You Know, are in my listening playlist while I craft my urban fantasy and horror. An NPR All Things Considered story about Mr. Dio aired Monday, May 18th. 

I first discovered Mr. Dio in 1992 during his second stint with the legendary metal band Black Sabbath. A track from the album Dehumanizer had made it's way to the soundtrack of Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey: a song appropriately titled: Time Machine. It was a terrible movie, but a great soundtrack. I ordered the cassette (this was before everyone had CD players) of the Dehumanizer album from Columbia House. It lived in my walkman for most of the school year.

Yes, my walkman...shut up! I'm old.

Anyway, Mr. Dio was involved with music for a very long time. Here's something not many people know about: Ronnie James Dio in a classic rock band: Ronnie and the Red Caps performing An Angel is Missing. And I really, really mean classic rock:

More from Mr. Dio's doo-wop days here.

After Dehumanizer, I listened to other Dio songs, most of which were recorded to a mix tape by a friend. I can't remember which friend, but I remember every song on the tape...which was recorded from another tape, so the sound quality was grainy at best. But Dio's voice punched through on every track. His voice was one of several that brought me into heavy music, along with Glenn Danzig, Thomas Warrior, James Hetfield, Ozzy Osbourne, Bobby Ellsworth, Dave Mustaine, Tom Araya, Bruce Dickenson, Eric Knutson, and Chuck Billy.

That was a long time ago. My tastes have changed a bit over the years. Many of the abovementioned vocalists I don't enjoy as much as I once did. Of the few I still enjoy, Dio stands at the front. Aside from his solo work with his self-named band, last year he and former Black Sabbath members recorded an album under the band named for the first album Dio recorded with Sabbath: Heaven and Hell.

I was looking forward to seeing them on tour, until health concerns (Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year) forced them to cancel the tour.

Dio passed away this week. Known for his clean living and positive attitude (unusual for a rock star) Dio was still performing concerts and studio recordings at 67. His amazing voice could have carried him into opera if he wished, but he chose to focus his talent through the medium of heavy metal.

The loss of Ronnie James Dio takes from the world one of it's greatest voices, talents, and friends. Dio was respected and admired by fans of heavy music everywhere, as demonstrated by this appearance of Tenacious D (performing their own version Dio's classic Heaven and Hell on acoustics) at the beginning of a Dio video:

All fortunate enough to meet him remember Dio as a good and true friend. 

Mr. Dio is survived by his wife, Wendy Galaxiola: chairperson of the privately funded charity, Children of the Night, an organization that helps rescue children from prostitution, and an organization in which Dio lent his time, money and personality. Wendy released the following statement in the wake of her husband's death,

"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."

Children of the Night made the following statement on their Facebook:

"Ronnie James Dio led the music world to support Children of the Night when others snubbed our children. Ronnie filled so many hearts with his love and joy for life. He shared his music and his spirit with countless individuals. Ronnie's generous gift can never be taken away. He won't be missed, he will be remembered forever and ever because he left a indelible mark in our minds and in our souls."

A new cause on Facebook seeks to release a single of Dio's hit: Holy Diver, with the proceeds going to support cancer research. If you use Facebook, you may join this cause here.

It's with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Mr. Dio, heavy-metal god and rock and roll legend, and offer my condolence to his family and friends for his passing. His death transforms the last video he recorded with Heaven and Hell all the more bittersweet, as the fallen angel ascends to the powerful voice that made Dio a legend.

Farewell, Mr Dio: it is some comfort that Valhalla will be richer for your presence, but we who remain on Earth will be less fortunate for our loss. You will never be forgotten or duplicated. An angel is missing.

Rest in peace.