Ronnie James Dio: 1942-2010

“The world is full of kings and queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams, it’s heaven and hell….”

The Elf is gone. I think I first saw Dio with Rainbow in 1977 or 1978, opening either for some dumb redneck fake rocker (Ted Nugent) or a bunch of drugged out dipshits who can’t play or sing (Aerosmith), or maybe it was an imploding Black Sabbath (who didn’t even finish their set)….The seventies are a bit hazy for me….But, whichever, it was a shocker, since Rainbow blew out the lead act and Dio outshined Richie Blackmore.

Dio saved heavy metal, which was quickly descending into the pits of big hair music or mindless noise. Most of the latter was a function of the fact that most acts were just that–acts. They didn’t know how to play, their  ” music” was written by some 50 year old fat guy in LA (who lived in his mother’s basement and was a child star in a 1950s sitcom), and some of the most popular were nothing short of Republican tools (yeah, Metallica, I’m surprised they didn’t play Bush’s inaugeration–maybe without the wigs).

The drugs weren’t helping, either. Growing up in Tulsa we were usually stop number 89 on a 100 leg tour, and the “where the fuck are we, and why?” factor loomed large in many performances.  I saw a lot of concerts in the 70s and 80s, but only about five good ones. Dio was a professional, and he brought professionalism back into heavy metal. I thought Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi were going to cry when Dio first stepped out in front of them for a 1981 show. It was like, wow,  they finally had a singer who not only showed up half sober, but actually opened perfectly on time, key, and pitch. Dio brought virtuosity back in.

Dio was no spring chicken. The man paid his dues. Still, rock star mortality is weird, what with Ozzy and Keith Richards still kicking around….I got a feeling something was up when Rob Halford did a tribute at something last year. Dio was the greatest.

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