“The First Time I Heard Ronnie James Dio sing I Felt shivers down my spine.”
Ritchie Blackmore (2010)
Had he still been with us today the legendary Ronnie James Dio would’ve been 75 years old. It would be hard to find an artist from the Metal community that is now more respected than him. To say he has now reached iconic, or legendary status would definitely be an understatement. Ronnie himself, who was a very proud man would truly be flattered. During his lifetime he obviously felt in many ways to be disrespected, (and justifiably by the way) when other less talented singers and musicians received more recognition than him. It was no secret all through his career, especially after his time in Black Sabbath that he always felt Ozzy Osbourne was a clown, even quitting Black Sabbath after reuniting with them in the 1990s when they decided to open for him. Ronnie made it clear to Tony Iommi, and Geezer Butler that he would NEVER open for Ozzy under any circumstances.
None of that should be surprising. Ronnie was a proud man. Like Lemmy Kilmister he was there at the beginning of Rock And Roll music. Growing up in the 1950s on the east coast of America he was influenced by the likes of Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly, even forming his own bands like The Redcaps. All through the 1960s (after changing his name from Ronald James Padavona, to Ronnie James Dio) he would continue to try and break through. He would finally begin to gain recognition in a band he would form called The Electric Elves, which later would be shortened to Elf by the early 1970s. You could say at this point fate would intervene since two members of the superstar band Deep Purple known as Roger Glover, and Ian Paice would take an interest in the band, not only producing the first Elf record, but inviting them to open also for Deep Purple. At this point Ronnie wasn’t only the singer, but also played bass. And even though Elf wasn’t anything close to a Heavy Metal band at the time, Deep Purple’s guitar player Ritchie Blackmore would begin to plan his exit from Deep Purple that included Ronnie for a new project that would begin Ronnie’s rise to superstardom.
As history proves once Ritchie Blackmore decided to form his own band called Rainbow he would ask the members of Elf to become his backing band. Truth be told, the only one he really was interested in was Ronnie, and would record three now classic records together (including the now legendary record “Rising”) that all would become successful. It would be after recording the third Rainbow album “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” that Ronnie would begin to plan making a move into his solo career, even asking band member Bob Daisley to come with him. That would have to wait though as Ronnie would leave one legendary guitar player to work for another. By the late 1970s most people thought that Black Sabbath was yesterday’s news. Ozzy Osbourne had been fired from the band, and all of a sudden Ronnie James Dio was now a member. (Bob Daisley would end up forming a band with Sabbath’s ex singer Ozzy.) Originally Ronnie wanted to call the band by a different name, but the record company, and management wanted the band to remain under the Black Sabbath name. Ronnie would record two classic records with Sabbath (Heaven And Hell, and Mob Rules) becoming one of the few bands that could remain relevant after losing their legendary frontman. Once again though Ronnie would become tired of playing second fiddle to another legendary guitar player, and leave Sabbath in the early 1980s.
From this point on Ronnie would never allow anyone to outshine him again. He would form his own solo band DIO, and become a superstar in his own right. For many fans (especially in America) they didn’t know the impressive musical resume that Ronnie had already accumulated. It would be the albums like “Holy Diver”, and “The Last In Line” that would truly introduce him to the masses. All through the 1980s he would become one of the biggest Metal artists throughout the world. He would also prove that he was also one of the most intelligent, likable, and generous Metal artists also. He would donate to many charitable causes, even get his peers together to record a song for World Hunger with the Hear ‘n Aid project which raised over a million dollars in just a year. Sadly it never got the attention or praise that the Band Aid, or USA For Africa projects did. Also no one is more responsible for popularizing the “Metal Horns” hand gesture, and more responsible than Ronnie for making it an indelible part of metal culture. It’s too bad Ronnie wasn’t around to give Gene Simmons the middle finger when he recently tried the fiasco of trademarking the hand sign.
The last 20 years of Ronnie’s life he stayed active, still recording great music. Some of the music he made wasn’t given the respect at the time. For instance when he reunited with Black Sabbath in 1992 during the grunge movement to record the very underrated album “Dehumanizer” that’s just now beginning to get the respect it should’ve received when it was released. Just four years before his death Ronnie again reunited with his former band mates in Black Sabbath, but at this point he refused to allow the project to be under the Black Sabbath name. The band would now be called Heaven & Hell, and have not only a very successful tour, but also would record, and release the excellent, and underrated record ” The Devil You Know” in 2009, which would become the last album of original material recorded by Ronnie during his lifetime. Just a year later we would lose Ronnie to stomach cancer at the young age of 67 years old after almost 50 years of a career in music.
In the seven plus years since Ronnie’s been gone he’s actually more relevant now than ever. Looking back at his almost 50 year career it continues to impress with all all that he accomplished in a number of different scenarios. Realistically he’s accomplished enough to be a multiple inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, yet he’s not enshrined even once. In reality pretty much no other artist has accomplished more than Ronnie James Dio. He’s earned all the respect in the world. All his legacy will do is continue to grow by leaps and bounds. When he was alive he was, and even in death he still is “EVERYTHING” right about Heavy Metal music.