Saturday, 22 May 2010

Tribute: Ronnie James Dio (1942 - 2010)

Ronnie James Dio passed away on May 16 2010, aged 67, after suffering from stomach cancer.

Dio was one of the most influential lead vocalists and songwriters in the history of heavy metal. His soaring, warrior's call-to-attack voice was completely out of proportion with his diminutive frame. He was the perfect metal frontman, with a powerful, dark, medieval, dominating, theatrical but serious presence. And as a song writer, he contributed to many heavy metal classics during the genre's golden era. Dio was also by all accounts a genuinely humble, down-to-earth and friendly person.

To add to his mystique, he is also credited with popularizing the global metal "horn signs" salute, apparently inspired by his Italian grandmother.

A major contributor to no less than three significant bands in the history of metal, Dio first came to prominence as the frontman for Rainbow, wizard guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's first project upon leaving Deep Purple. Together, Dio and Blackmore wrote and performed some classic metal tracks, best demonstrated on the album Rising (1976). From that album, the tracks Stargazer and A Light In The Black, both over eight minutes long, are legendary examples of soaring power metal; A Light In The Black remains one of the most perfect and epic metal compositions ever written. The follow-up Rainbow album, Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, was also good and featured the impressive Kill The King.

Dio then joined Black Sabbath: for a small man, he had huge shoes to fill, as the replacement for Ozzy Osbourne. To his credit, Dio immediately clicked with guitarist Toni Iommi and breathed new life into Sabbath. Dio's two studio albums with Sabbath, Heaven And Hell (1980) and Mob Rules (1982), are well-regarded, and served to dim the memory of the poor final days of Sabbath with Osbourne. Heaven And Hell featured Children of the Sea, Heaven And Hell, and Die Young; Mob Rules gave us The Sign Of The Southern Cross; Mob Rules and Falling Of The Edge Of The World.

Dio moved on to the third significant chapter of his metal life, forming his own self-titled band, and he promptly put together two more high quality albums as heavy metal's popularity re-ignited in the early to mid-eighties: Holy Diver (1983) and The Last In Line (1984). Joining forces with guitarist Vivian Campbell, the two albums produced classic tracks including Holy Diver, Rainbow In The Dark, and The Last In Line. Rainbow In The Dark is particularly fondly remembered as one of the best metal songs from that era, from any band. There were several more Dio studio albums over the years, but none to match the quality of the first two.

With the passing years, Dio never stopped creating albums, touring, putting on great shows, and being an ambassador the the genre. Most recently he teamed up with fellow Black Sabbath members and toured as the band Heaven and Hell.

Dio's legacy is secure: Both Rising and Holy Diver are among the 50 All Time Best Heavy Metal Albums.

And one thing is for sure: with the passing of Ronnie James Dio, metal heaven must now be a hell of a rocking place. Enjoy the videos below LOUD.

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