Ronnie James Dio passed away this morning at 7:45am (CST I believe) at the age of 67 after a battle with stomach cancer. If you are a fan and lover of hard rock and heavy metal, then you know how important of a figure Dio was in the scene and how adored he was by generations of fans. Whether he was singing for Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath or the band that shared his namesake, Dio, his voice was always incredible and powerful. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform live as the frontman for Heaven and Hell (the new name for the Dio fronted version of Black Sabbath) on the Metal Masters Tour with Judas Priest, Motorhead and Testament in 2008. Dio was 66 years old at the time of that show, but you never would have guessed it. His voice was still as strong as ever and he prowled the stage like a man half his age. I'm saddened that I will never have the chance to see him perform live again, but very happy to have seen him at least once. And by all accounts, Dio was apparently an incredibly nice guy and a pleasure to be around. I know more than one person who interacted with him and said he was truly a salt of the earth type. I know for fact that he and his wife, Wendy were involved in the organization, Children of the Night, whose mission is to rescue American children who are trapped in street prostitution (his wife is in fact the Chairman of the Board of Directors). And of course there was the Hear N Aid project (a heavy metal version of "We Are The World") that Dio put together to help raise money for famine relief in Africa.
And although not nearly as important a contribution as his music, Dio is the one who introduced the world to the universally recognized sign for metal, "the horns" or "the goat" or whatever you prefer to call it (see the above photo if you don't know what I am talking about).
What else is there to say really? Metalheads all over the world are in mourning for the man who was the voice of so many important records in the annals of heavy metal history and a true icon. This is easily the biggest loss since the tragic and untimely death of Dimebag Darrell. Hopefully I won't be writing a sentence about anyone taking the biggest loss honor from RJD anytime too soon.
If you need a little Dio 101, then I'd start with Heaven And Hell (Black Sabbath), Holy Diver (Dio), Last In Line (Dio) and Rainbow Rising (Rainbow), but ultimately all of his material is pretty great.
"Last In Line"
"Rock 'N' Roll Children"
"Heaven And Hell"