Ronnie James Dio passed away this weekend. He was a man short in staure, but with the voice and heart of a giant. He fronted band such as Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and his self-titled band Dio.
Dio's voice was amazing. He could sing like an angel one moment, then, on the turn of a dime, change his voice to an evil growl. A friend of mine in college (who was into New Wave,mostly) said Dio's voice scared him. "He sounds like the Devil."
Dio's lyrics were often filled with metaphors and symbols. His songs were about Good and Evil, faraway realms and the innermost feelings of one's heart, fantasy and grim reality, and about dreams, and making them come true. His work was a grand mix of Light and Darkness.
Dio was also the first to use the famous hand sign known as 'The Horns'. Some PMRC-types swear it was a salute to Satan, but Dio actually got it from his little old Italian grandmother. The 'Maloche' was used both to protect one from the Evil Eye and to inflict it on others. I wonder what Grandma Dio would think about a sea of metalheads using her signature move at a concert.
Dio, though accused of being evil (like most Metal practitioners during their careers), did good works, including the recording Stars, sort of a Metal response to We Are The World. As mentioned above, for every song Dio wrote about darkness and evil, he had one with a positive message...Wishing Well and Hungry For Heaven come to mind.
Dio's music was a big part of my childhood, and adulthood, actually. I can renember hearing Rainbow's Man on the Silver Mountain on the radio when I was a young beast, and I also recall being very pleased with his work in Black Sabbath when he replaced Ozzy Osborne (I'm one of the few who actually like the Dio years better than the Ozzy years of Sabbath , so let the hate mail begin). I have fond memories of playing pool in my basement, listening to Sabbath's Mob Rules, and, of course, Heaven and Hell, a masterpiece of Metal, in my not-too-humble opinion. I, of course, ran out to get his solo stuff when he left Sabbath...I'm still not tired, 20 years later, of Rainbow In The Dark ( though my favorite cut off that album is Straight Through The Heart). When I took voice lessons in college, I used a music book of Rainbow's Rising during class to sing songs from. I followed him through the years as he rejoined Sabbath, left for solo-land again, and rejoined Sabbath yet again. I felt bad when I heard he had stomach cancer, and was relieved when news got out that he was doing better...then, last Sunday when news got out that he died, it was like a shadow passing overhead. Like Frank Frazetta's passing, it felt like something that has always been around in my life has left...but, I guess, their work, their pictures and songs, will still be with me, and others whom they've touched. The world is diminished, but there's a new skald singing songs in valhalla, and there's a new artist to paint wondrous works on the walls of the mead halls in Asgard. Hail Frazetta; Hail Dio.