Friday, May 21, 2010

R.I.P: Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)

I was hanging out at the Chelsea Hotel on a rare rehearsal-free Sunday when I heard the news that Dio had passed. Needless to say, it was a bummer to hear that one of metal's pre-eminent vocalist and nicest guys had lost his battle with stomach cancer. He had been on That Metal Show in the last couple months with Geezer to promote the Heaven And Hell record and was his usual charming, funny self, trading top-notch banter with the TMS guys and doing a hysterical job of skewering most recent drummer Vinny Appice.

During that same episode, Jamieson related the usual story you would hear: Dio talked with his middle-aged not-especially-metal brother-in-law at length and was as charming as he would be for his record company president. I never met him firsthand, but have heard hundreds of variations of that same story since I was a kid. He seemed to be a genuinely great guy and its a shame that he passed and douches like Weiland still walk this Earth.

That douchely pointed out, I first saw Dio in the Holy Diver video when I was but a wee bairn. It was probably on MTV, although there is the slight chance it was on HBO Video Jukebox. Either way, it was a big moment for my young aspiring metalhead self. Vivian Campbell was playing his ass off and while the video was silly, it was much more so in retrospect, but still pretty damn cool. I was ignorant of Sabbath (or Elf, for that matter) at that point, but managed to see him live soonish afterward where I both marvelled at how small he was (an epiphany on the level of Halford's homosexuality that was and is staggeringly obvious that I question my powers of perception) and saw him fight a laser dragon to my great delight.

Later on I saw him headline at Irving, as well as playing on a staggeringly awesome show at The Garden sandwiched between Motorhead and the headlining reunited Bruce Dickinson-helmed Maiden. The show was arena metal at its finest and translated well to the late-century era. The only shortcoming was that technology had reduced the time honored double rows of keyboards to a single improbably small MIDI controller that really took a lot of the visual effect off of songs like Rainbow In The Dark, but still rocked your ass soundly. Craig Goldie was in the lead guitar slot and I'm embarassed that I'm not sure if it was Jeff Pilson in the bass slot. Dio was in ridiculously good vocal form for a man his age and had the crowd in the palm of his devil-horned hand like he was the top dog of the proceedings. I hadn't seen of heard his last couple Dio records, but was pleasantly surprised to find the reunited Heaven And Hell actually weren't all that terrible. The tour did well enough that Heaven And Hell seemed to be the top priority for all the parties for the next couple years.

Internet and That Metal Show had reported Ronnie's cancer six months or so ago, but Eddie Trunk had reported that Ronnie had booked shows for the upcoming Summer and recent bassist Rudy Sarzo had reported pretty much the same on TMS a couple months ago, but evidently things took a turn for worse and he passed at 7:45 on the morning of 5/16. It's a shame. Ronnie James Dio was one of the true masters of metal and one who deserves to be inducted posthumously into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in short order. There being very little justice in this world, I can't see it happening, but we can only hope. Keep him and Wendy in your thoughts and be sure to play Dio, Sabbath and Heaven And Hell in his honor for years to come.



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