Posted by: vikingsinspace | May 17, 2010

A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio

On Sunday, a living legend in the Heavy Metal world passed on.  By now, it is well known that Ronnie James Dio passed away early in the morning after his battle with stomach cancer.  In a way, I believe his death is the first and most significant loss of a major figure who shaped this genre of music which emerged from the 70s and was perfected, by Dio, in the 80s.  Yes, there have been other Metal figures who have passed on before Dio, but those have been largely a result of the unhealthy lifestyle of many rockstars, or of freak and unexpected occurences.  Dio, to my knowledge, is the first to put together a full and healthy career, but still to have died too early; leaving us wanting more. 

Black Sabbath

My first encounter with Dio was through his time with Black Sabbath.  At the time, I believed myself to be a ‘Sabbath Pureist’ and that any form of Black Sabbath that did not feature Ozzie Osbourne just wasn’t the same thing.  I didn’t even want to bother trying anything else.  Well one summer as a teenager, when I was desperate for some new music but didn’t want to risk my small supply of money on something unknown, I picked up one of these non-Ozzie Sabbath albums called Dehumanizer.  I instantly loved it.  I later bought the other two Sabbath albums featuring Dio, Heaven and Hell, and The Mob Rules, and began collecting his solo albums, starting with Dream Evil, and grabbing the rest of the albums that came previously.  Once I had those, I had to go back and grab his work with Rainbow, and even managed to get all the albums he recorded with his first major band, Elf.  Since then I have eagerly awaited every new album from him, and was usually placated every two to three years. 

As I’ve said in a previous post (see V.05. See Dio Live), I managed to go to a Dio concert twice, and both experiences were amazing.  Dio was the ultimate performer on the live stage; knowing just how to get the audience involved and maintain the energy.  He performed the difficult task of any vocalist of being able to just sing, but still project an energy and excitement towards the crowd and keep up the entertainment factor.  Sometimes this involved interaction with his guitarists, or even fighting off a giant animatronic dragon – it was other the top, to be sure, but it was always a fantastic show.  Most importantly however, is that Dio introduced the Evil Eye gesture to the Rock and Roll world.  This simple hand-sign of the index- and pinky-fingers extended, with middle- and ring-fingers curled under the thumb has become a universal symbol in Heavy Metal and pop culture to signify an energetic approval of all things awesome, kick-ass, or metal.  Its origins with Dio provide a quiet attestation to what an influence this man and his music has had on the world. 

Beyond his live performances, Dio was an accomplished poet who’s works were played out in the record studio and the stage throughout his career.  His lyrics became imbedded with a fascination of sword and sorcery during his tenure with Rainbow, and maintained this interest with the supernatural throughout.  By this time, his lyrics were no longer a simplistic story of one man’s every-day mundane trials, but an investigation into the metaphysical meant to awe the listener and force him or her to question their perceptions of reality.  Yes, they were often cheesy, hokey, and over-the-top, but the sheer power of what he said and how he delivered his words through excellently crafted rhymes were enough to forgive these awkward moments.  Most importantly however, is that Dio’s lyrical genius layed in his ability to tell just enough of the story to offer a glimpse into the true meaning of his words, but leave it ambiguous enough for the listener to attach his own meaning, thus making every song a personal experience for every listener. 

Dio in 1990

But first and foremost, Dio was a musician.  Before all the knights and dragons, Dio performed in several pop bands to begin his career, and was not only the vocalist, but played trumpet and bass as well.  Things really go going when his band changed their moniker to The Electric Elves, and then to simply Elf.  Their style at the time consisted of a blend of blues and country with a hard rock edge to it: more than anything else, the music produced with Elf is just good fun, that everyone I have ever played it for has enjoyed (even my girlfriend who hates heavy metal!).  Elf would eventually be discovered by some of the members of Deep Purple, and this would bring about a record contract and growing recognition (for more on the early years of Dio, see the site (Ronnie’s original surname) which has loads of information and some great MP3s to download).  Elf would eventually release three albums, and the members of that band would continue on for the first album of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.  Dio would stay for another two albums before leaving Rainbow to take over vocals for Black Sabbath. 

Dio in the 80s

Dio was the perfect replacement for Ozzie Osbourne.  While their vocal qualities were not the same, Dio injected new life into the band and through his work with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, managed to refine the genre of Heavy Metal.  His work on the first two post-Ozzie albums would produce such influential tracts as ‘Heaven and Hell,’ ‘Die Young,’ and ‘The Mob Rules.’  After a fight over the recording of Sabbath’s first live album, Live Evil, Dio and current Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice would leave to start Dio’s Solo career.  Dio as a solo artist would find success in the metal hey-days of the 80s, and produce some of his best known works, particularly the song ‘A Rainbow in the Dark’ off of his first Solo album, Holy Diver.  Dio would eventually do a reunion tour with Sabbath and record an album entitled Dehumanizer, then return to his solo career with new and evolving musical techniques in the albums Lock up the Wolves, and Strange Highways.  He would record his first concept album entitled Magica in 2000, and would once again rejoin Black Sabbath, this time under the name of Heaven and Hell to differentiate itself from the original line-up which had just been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

2009 Heaven and Hell Promo Picture

And this is where Dio leaves us.  A full and amazing career, with many varying musical styles and offering for the listener to enjoy.  But still we want more.  The planned Elf reunion that Dio had talked about for years remains unfinished, as well as the sequels to the concept album Magica and any other plans that were in place with Black Sabbath.  Dio was known to have said once that Black Sabbath was the band he wanted to end his career with, and I wonder if he knew just how prophetic that statement would become.  Some of his early concerts with Elf show the band covering some Sabbath songs such as ‘War Pigs,’ and when the listener hears these, one begins to realize that Dio was a man who lived his dreams, and is certainly an inspiration in that aspect.  It is clear through his music and persona onstage, that this man, performer, poet, and musician, loved what he did, and loved all of his fans and those whose lives he touched.  Forgive me for being over dramatic, but concerning Dio’s sensibilities, I think it is forgivable.  But really, what fitting tribute can a gushing fan provide?  I think it would be best to end this with the statements of those who knew the man, and performed with him over the years.  Here are the statements by various Heavy Metal personas regarding Dio’s passing, starting with his wife, and continuing in alphabetical order: 

Wendy Dio: 

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. 


Dio, Italian for God. Words won’t do the man justice so we won’t even try. Horns up always!

David Ellefson

Of course our bright beam from the tour’s glow was dimmed today when we learned of the passing of Ronnie James Dio. He was truly one of the ‘good guys’ in this business and a consummate pro, someone we can all take a que and learn from. We are all fans of his and he did many great things for Megadeth and its members, starting starting as far back as his “Dream Evil” North American tour in which we were the support band during the “So Far, So Good…So What” tour.

Our prayers go out to him and his family at this time.

Iron Maiden: 

It is with huge sadness we hear that Ronnie has lost his battle against stomach cancer, and our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Wendy and family at this terrible time.  From his earlier years in Elf, Black Sabbath and Dio, right through to his most recent days fronting Heaven and Hell, Ronnie, time and again, proved his genius as a frontman, always giving his all to his fans and his music. Ronnie was not only an incredibly gifted singer but also a wonderfully warm, intelligent and generous person and this shone through both on and off stage leaving a positive mark on everyone he came into contact with. A longstanding friend of Maiden, we played many shows together over the years and we will all miss him greatly. 

The world has lost an irreplaceable talent and, first and foremost,  one of the finest human beings you could ever wish to meet. 

Steve, Bruce, Adrian, Dave, Janick, Nicko and Rod 

Jens Johansson:

“I hesitated a bit to write something about this. In a way it feels weird to use this sad day to attract attention to myself. Then I realized I also feel a bit strange to not even comment in public.

“I joined DIO-the-band for about a year in the early Nineties, that’s how I got to know Ronnie. Him, and let’s not forget Wendy [Ronnie‘s wife/manager], who is still very much alive. They were a team.

“When they took me in to the DIO family, I felt a bit like a cold puppy coming in from the rain. I had previously just left Yngwie‘s band which was a really fun and creative situation, but it was at the same time also tremendously chaotic and stressful.

“My time in DIO was simply one of the best times in my life.

Ronnie was one of the best people I ever met, very different from the usual musicians and other suspects in this wretched industry. I think this is something you will hear over and over — you have heard it before he was gone, and you will also keep hearing it after he is gone. Quite simply, because it’s the truth. And especially towards fans.

“If you didn’t realize it by now, you can ask anyone who met him. Ronnie was the guy signing autographs in the cold rain after the point where any mere mortal would have crawled back into bed. It was insane. His dedication to the fans was not from this world. He is the guy that finally made it dawn on me who it is who actually pays the bills — it is the fans. (Well, at least he tried. If I didn’t quite learn, that is my own fault.)

“Well, it could be everyone knows all that already, so what else can I say that you don’t already know or could find out from Wikipedia?

“Since I was a Dio fan myself long long before I even met him, I think I have some perspective.

“His voice was like a tank… I never heard him have a bad day. I have honestly never met anyone else like this in my whole life. Even if he stayed up all night drinking and talking, he would still deliver 150% the next day.

“From his performing, you’d think he was 22 years old, his whole life… but if you look at how much he accomplished, you’d think he lived to the age of 120.

“He was very funny. Fond of British humor, like Monty Python.

“My best memories of the time with him are either him laughing at something I or someone else said, or me laughing at something he said, or any of the many running gags that he created.

“His lyric-writing really has depths you don’t immediately see when you read them first. Read them again and think.

“He was very intelligent. He was, without a question, NOT some sort of devil worshipper or satanist. He grew up in a small town and was what I would call just a ‘very decent person.’ He had higher morals than most people I have met, and definitely he had higher morals than I have. He just didn’t particularly believe in God of the Christian bible, I think. But he was really spiritual and thought about deep issues, a lot.

“I never saw him do any hard drugs. He was, to me, the embodiment of the
idea: if you want to get anywhere, stay off the hard stuff.

“There was the relentless charity work for ‘Children of the Night.’ But that you may have heard about already and can read more about on the Internet; just google for the phrase.

“I realize this may sound like I’m trying to paint too soft a picture. I am really racking my brains here and I couldn’t think of anything bad to say about him even if I tried. The only thing I can think of is that his character definitely had a surprising bite when something pissed him off; he didn’t suffer fools lightly. If you were a fool in his path, and all options of patience, understabding and politeness had been exhausted, then he didn’t hold back verbally… beware, fool, you might have two assholes all of a sudden, or your head might be rolling on the floor! I, of course, found this extremely amusing (unless it was me who was the unwitting fool, which I think happened, like, once).

“I don’t exaggerate when I say I feel him being gone is a loss for humanity, but I still try to look at the glass as half full. Imagine if he would have died at 27 like so many other geniuses. As a listener I’m thankful for that grace, and as a person I’m thankful I got to know him.

“We will all die at some point; he never beat around the bush when speaking or writing about death.

“Cancer sucks, and I don’t know what I think would suck more, him gone today, or him alive for another year but in severe pain. I’m also not sure if Ronnie would have wanted us to be too sad. (Of course, a bit sad! I’m not suggesting we go dancing in the streets with joy screaming ‘lolololololololo’ like those crazy Palestinians after 9/11 here.)

“He dedicated so much of his own life to bring happiness to other people.

“Let’s mourn a genius and a great guy who is lost to us now. But let’s mourn in a way that he constantly wrote about, by deciding that we should live each day, including this one, to its fullest, even if it is a sad day.

“You don’t know if this day is your last day, and if it is you don’t know what will follow.

“The music he made will remain after me, or anyone reading this, will be gone. So unless you did already, put some of it on. If it puts an evil smile on your face, then your day is better. That’s all any musician can ask from you.”

Judas Priest:

We are filled with great sadness at the terrible news about our friend Ronnie James Dio – our condolences and love go to Wendy and Ronnie’s family – Ronnie was a wonderful man and will be sorely missed.

16th May, 2010


We mourn the tragic passing of the great Ronnie James Dio. In addition to his powerhouse vocal ability, Ronnie was a true gentleman who always emanated great warmth and friendship to us and everyone around him. We will miss him.

Paul, Gene, Tommy and Eric 

Lars Ulrich: 

Dear Ronnie, 

I just got off stage in Zagreb. I was met with the news that you’ve passed on. I’m kind of in shock, but I wanted you to know that you were one of the main reasons I made it onto that stage to begin with. When I first saw you in Elf, opening for Deep Purple in 1975, I was completely blown away by the power in your voice, your presence on stage, your confidence, and the ease with which you seemed to connect to 6000 Danish people and one starry-eyed 11 year old, most of whom were not familiar with Elf’s music. The following year, I was so psyched when I heard the results of you joining forces with my favorite guitar player. You guys sounded so right for each other and I instantly became Rainbow’s #1 fan in Denmark. In the fall of 1976, when you played your first show in Copenhagen, I was literally in the front row and the couple of times we made eye contact you made me feel like the most important person in the world. The news that you guys were staying in town on your day off somehow embedded itself in my brain and I made the pilgrimage to the Plaza Hotel to see if I could somehow grab a picture, an autograph, a moment, anything. A few hours later you came out and were so kind and caring… pictures, autographs and a couple minutes of casual banter. I was on top of the world, inspired and ready for anything. Rainbow came to Copenhagen a couple more times over the next few years and each time you guys blew my mind, and for a good three years were my absolute favorite band on this planet. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to run into you a half dozen times or so and each time you were as kind, caring and gracious as you were in 1976 outside the hotel. When we finally got a chance to play together in Austria in 2007, even though I may not have let on, I was literally transformed back to that little snot nosed kid who you met and inspired 31 years earlier and it was such a fucking honor and a dream come true to share a stage with you and the rest of the legends in Heaven and Hell. A couple of weeks ago when I heard that you were not going to be able to make it to the Sonisphere shows that we would be sharing this June, I wanted to call you and let you know that I was thinking of you and wish you well, but I kind of pussied out, thinking the last thing you needed in your recovery was feeling obligated to take a phone call from a Danish drummer/fan boy. I wish I’d made that call. We will miss you immensely on the dates, and we will be thinking of you with great admiration and affection during that run. It seemed so right to have you out on tour with the so-called “Big Four” since you obviously were one of the main reasons that the four bands even exist. Your ears will definitely be burning during those two weeks because all of us will be talking, reminiscing and sharing stories about how knowing you has made our lives that much better. 

Ronnie, your voice impacted and empowered me, your music inspired and influenced me, and your kindness touched and moved me. Thank you. 

Much love, 



I’m truly upset, especially since he seemed to be rallying at the Golden Gods show. Bon Voyage, Ronnie, rest in peace. I’m devastated

Ritchie Blackmore:

Ronnie had a unique and wonderful voice. He will be sadly missed in the rock and roll world

Rowan Robertson:

I am privileged to have been a part of Ronnie James Dio‘s life and music. His closest ones are in my thoughts.

Shawn Drover:

I am at an absolute loss right now upon hearing that Ronnie has passed away. I had the pleasure of touring both Canada and America in 2007 when Megadeth toured with “Heaven and Hell” (Black Sabbath in my eyes) and I swear to you he is 1 of the nicest human beings I have ever met, period. Many a night on that tour, Glen and myself would have amazing conversation’s with Ronnie about his career, etc. fully knowing he had probably told these stories 10,000 times to people and yet he answered every question I had with a big smile. I can recall so many times making eye contact with Glen sharing the exact same thought – “Dude, I can’t believe we are hanging with RONNIE JAMES DIO!!!!!” If you are lucky enough in your lifetime to actually meet 1 of your idols (let alone tour with them) and they turn out to be even nicer than you could have envisioned, that is something you would truly treasure. Lucky for me, I will cherish those memories forever……………….

Tony Iommi: 

Yesterday 16th May my dear, dear friend Ronnie James Dio passed away at 7.45am LA time. I’ve been in total shock I just can’t believe he’s gone. Ronnie was one of the nicest people you could ever meet, we had some fantastic times together. Ronnie loved what he did, making music and performing on stage. He loved his fans so much. He was a kind man and would put himself out to help others. I can honestly say it’s truly been an honor to play at his side for all these years, his music will live on forever. Our thoughts are with Wendy Dio who stood by Ronnie until the end, he loved her very much. The man with the magic voice is a star amongst stars, a true professional. I’ll miss you so much my dear friend. RIP – Tony 

Twisted Sister: 

The members of Twisted Sister along with millions of metal fans around the world mourn the death of our friend Ronnie James Dio.

Ronnie not only was a giant in the world wide metal scene, but he was also one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet.

Beginning in 1983 when we first toured with Ronnie in Canada, and continuing over the last 7 years when we played dozens of festivals around the world, Ronnie was one of the most supportive and gracious members of the music community.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Wendy and Ronnie’s family.

Dee, Jay Jay, Eddie, Mark and AJ

I have come to realize that I will not be able to keep up with these, but it looks like the guys at are doing just that. So here is a link to their page:

So to finish off, here is a song by the man himself, which I find fitting for the occasion.

All pictures have been taken from Black Sabbath Online, and videos from Youtube.  I intend no copyright infringement, but only to salute one of my favorite artists.  If you retain copyright of any of these images and wish me to remove them, please contact me and I will do so.



  1. […] Update: Ronnie James Dio died on May 16th, 2010.  I feel lucky that I got to see him in concert twice, and sad that one of my favorite musicians is gone.  I wrote a tribute to Dio the day after his death, which can be found here. […]

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