Twenty-fifth installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.
Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.
Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.
As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.
It’s not often that someone is hailed as one of the best in the business and seen as also one of the nicest in it. Talent and sympathy are not always bedfellows. Unless if you are Ronnie James Dio.
Considered by many the greatest Heavy Metal singer that ever existed and one of the greatest guys you could ever meet, Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona, on July 10, 1942 (some sources say 1940, but that’s not officially confirmed) in Portsmouth (NH).
Blessed with a privileged set of pipes that allowed him to have a powerful, melodic and unique voice, it took some good 18 years from the start of his career in 1957 with The Vegas Kings to start getting worldwide recognition with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in 1975.
He started using the nickname Dio around 1960, according to his explanation because his Italian grandmother said he had a gift from God, so he should use the name Dio. His grandmother is also responsible for one of the most important contributions of Dio to the Metal world: the Metal horns. Yes, Dio was the first to use the now universal Metal sign with the index and pinkie fingers. However, while most people think the horns symbolize the Devil, it’s quite the opposite. That was an ancient Italian sign that means protection from evil. His grandmother used to do that to him and he started using to his audience.
Before Rainbow, Dio had mild success with Elf, which was a rather interesting band. The Dio everybody knows and loves it’s not quite there yet, but you can already feel the potential. With Rainbow, Dio recorded three bonafide Heavy Rock classics: the self-titled debut, Rising and Long Live Rock And Roll. And that’s when Dio’s star started shinning brightest: how could someone stay immune to his lyrics and interpretation on tracks like “Temple Of The King”, “Stargazer” and “Gates of Babylon”? And he even showed he could write hits like “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Long Live Rock And Roll” itself.
When he was ousted from Rainbow, Dio went on to further fame and fortune with Black Sabbath, replacing Ozzy Osbourne. And he took the opportunity to record two more stone cold classics: Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules. Once again, you can’t argue with songs like “Heaven and Hell”, “Neon Knights”, “Die Young”, “Children of the Sea”, the criminally underrated “Lady Evil”, “The Mob Rules”, “Falling Off The Edge Of The World”, “The Sign Of The Southern Cross”, among others.
And when he ventured on a solo career he was also brilliant, especially when he had great guitar players like Vivian Campbell and Craig Goldy. And four more classics were recorded: Holy Diver, The Last in Line, Sacred Heart and Dream Evil. Once again you can’t argue with songs like “Stand Up and Shout”, “Holy Diver”, “Rainbow in the Dark”, “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, “Invisible”, “The Last In Line”, “Mystery”, “Sacred Heart”, “I Could Have Been a Dreamer”, “Rock And Roll Children”, “Hungry For Heaven”, etc.
I can clearly remember listening to Dio for the first time in K7 tape with a lot of Metal songs that my uncle recorded for me. There was “Stand Up and Shout” and Sabbath’s “Falling Off the Edge of The World”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had never heard a voice like that before.
Dio is sometimes put down due to his penchant for swords and sorcery lyrics. There are a lot of rainbows, dragons, kings and swords indeed. But if you bother to dig a little deeper, you’ll find some great metaphors. Dio was actually a great lyricist.
Sadly, he died on May 16, 2010, but his body of work will live on forever.
Therefore, Ronnie, don’t be on your own like a rainbow in the dark and come join the Hall Of Idols.
Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal”.
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