TONIGHT I was planning to post a few blogs about all sorts of random rock and metal stuff: a reply from Tristan on my post about Metallica, links to the Metallica dates, ruminations on Cathedral, kicking off the 'Lizzy or not' debate, and launching a competition for Ratt tickets.
Alas, the news that filtered through this evening that Ronnie James Dio has passed away has put all that on the shelf for a while. His wife Wendy made the announcement that he had succombed to stomach cancer.
That Dio was one of the most important metal singer of all time is undisputed. But his journey to metal icon was one that began with the hard rock/hippie crossover that was Elf, a name somewhat ironic given the stature of the man.
The Rainbow years saw the man's voice toughen up, a counterpoint to the occassional meanderings of Blackore. The evolution from a great singer a true icon came when Ronnie joined Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward to record Heaven and Hell: an album that together with the NWOBHM began the journey to of metal to be both revered (from within) and reviled (from without).
In many ways Heaven and Hell showcased the dexterity of songwriting and musical and lurical ingenuity that heavy metal could achieve. And, though many sneered at Ronnie James lyrical myths it is worth the investment of time and energy to listen again to the allegories buried within...Remember that Stargazer was written at a time when the USA's space programme was being brought into question; Mob Rules written at the time when the first serious disturbances in the UK during Thatcher's rule were taken place. I could quote more, but take th time to draw you're own conclusions.
The days with Sabbath were numbered: after Mob Rules and the abortive sessions for Live Evil, Ronnie parted ways with Sabs and stormed the metal world once again with Holy Diver. My personal journey of listening to Dio began with Rainbow and Sabbath around the same time (82-83) but when Dio played the Antrim Forum in September 1984 Baal, Rab and about 2,000 others experienced first hand the power and commanding presence of the man.
It would be many years - and indeed many albums later before I would see Dio play live again. On the 26th October 2005 a packed Spring & Airbrake literally worshipped the man. With songs full of equal parts menace and humour his stage presence was magnificent; growling and prowling, using pillars and props in equal measure, making eye contact and throwing the horns. Truly, it was a night when the wee man belied his years (the first single with Dio on it was released in 1958!) with a performance that was engaging to all.
Though there were many albums to come (topped with last year's The Devil You Know) it was Dio's engagement with fans that made him an icon. Most of his songs from Rainbow through the Sabbath and solo years were about choices. The choice between good and evil was most prevalent. For all the seriousness and the mock histrionics Dio remained the sort of man you would have both liked to enjoy a pint with and have a serious conversation with too.
But, he was also a man who did not take himself too seriously, as his various collaborations with Tenacious D proved.
Above all, Ronnie James Dio possessed a voice honed and refined, but always easily identified. It was, too often overlooked as being a voice with real emotion. Listen to 'Lonely is the Word' the closing track from Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell to understand this.
Already there have been a plethora of sites paying condolences - not least the official Facebook Dio page. They are the online equivalent of a wake for the man, but together with this there is the intriguing proposition of a campaign to get Holy Diver to #1 in the charts to raise money for charity. Charity was also something Dio took seriously. He was the driving force behing Hear 'n' Aid at the time of Live Aid, and his wife Wendy was chairman of the American charity Children of the Night, which helped rescue child prostitutes.
So, it would be fitting if the last chart entry Dio achieved was a number one that raised money for charity. Whether it will happen or not remains to be seen, If it does, it would need to be soon, but I would rather that Dio was #1 across the globe in and around July 10th, the day of his birth.
Why the death of people, like Dio, can touch so many is sometimes queried by sociologists and anal assholes who have never, ever been touched by music. The music produced by Dio is more than a 'Demon Dance' it stirs all of us who have a heart which needs - nay craves- the facile world the one-minute wonder and the choreographed mimes of the boy bands.
This is not an obituary - this is a thank you to the man and for his musical legacy.
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll!
Ronnie James Dio - July 10th 1942 to May 16th 2010
You Rocked and We Rocked with you!