After keeping the post-Ozzy Black Sabbath alive and kicking and making Heavy Metal music eternally hip for a new generation of converts, is Ronnie James Dio heavy metal’s man for all seasons?
By: Ringo Bones
Even though I still mourn his untimely passing back in May 16, 2010 every time I scour every used LP and CD store in my neck of the woods for every LP, CD, cassette and the odd 8-Track or two that Ronnie James Dio appeared in, it seems only now that I realized that the metal world has lost one of its greatest founders. Given that it is more or less a consensus that 1969 is the accepted birth-year of Heavy Metal music, Dio already started his journey to fame and fortune with Blues-rockers Elf when they opened for Deep Purple. And it was probably his true love for performing that made his career endure.
Dio’s coruscating, partly operatic voice got the attention of Ritchie Blackmore when he hired him to front his post Deep Purple band, Rainbow, in 1975. Four years later Dio took over Ozzy Osbourne as Black Sabbath’s vocalist and managed to revive the band’s rather waning fortunes with the 1980 release of Heaven & Hell. Dio also popularized – make that invented - the “devil’s horns” gesture – long since became a Metal staple. He then quit Sabbath after 1982’s Live Evil, then formed his own band Dio with drummer Vinnie Appice and recorded one of Heavy Metal’s most iconic tracks: “Holy Diver”.
Dio also managed yet again to revive Black Sabbath’s waning careers in the 1990s when he sang for Sabbath for their Dehumanizer album. Probably the album that paved the way for Ozzy reuniting with Black Sabbath near the end of the 1990s – and made Heavy Metal music hip yet again for the under-18s near the end of the 20th Century.
In 2006, Dio rejoined with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler in a reformed Black Sabbath dubbed Heaven & Hell. Due to his untimely passing, Glenn Hughes is to take Dio’s place in Heaven & Hell for a special tribute at the High Voltage festival at London’s Victoria Park back in July 24, 2010. The band used the event to raise funds for the Ronnie James Dio “Stand Up And Shout” Cancer Fund - committed to the early detection and prevention cancer.
As someone who’s been performing since the birth of Heavy Metal in 1969, Ronnie James Dio managed to carve himself a unique niche in the somewhat cynical Metal world since hijacked by the corporate-driven music biz. With a talent proving that he can not only write beautiful and catchy Metal tunes that sell like hotcakes but is also there to remind us not to be unduly jaded by the increasingly corporate dominion of the music biz on Heavy Metal music. Ronnie James Dio could indeed be Heavy Metal music’s Man for all Seasons.