Sunday morning’s passing of heavy metal patriarch Ronnie James Dio due to stomach cancer resulted in an outpouring of emotion from metal fans and musicians all over the world.
Among the expressions of sadness, grief, and well-wishes toward Dio’s wife and manager Wendy Dio were fond remembrances by those who ever came into contact with, or simply enjoyed the music of, one of heavy metal’s iconic figures.
Dio’s influence was everywhere in metal for 35-plus years. He sang in Rainbow, became Ozzy Osbourne’s replacement in Black Sabbath, enjoyed a stellar solo career throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, brought together 40 metal greats in 1985 for a one-song project dubbed Hear N’ Aid that raised money to fight famine in Ethiopia, and ultimately fronted Heaven & Hell — his reincarnation of Black Sabbath.
Last month, Dio won the Revolver Golden Gods award for Liquid Metal Best Vocalist during the April 8 show. You can see him accept the honor from presenters Jerry Cantrell and Mike Inez of Alice In Chains during the broadcast Saturday, May 22, at 9 p.m. CST on VH1 Classic.
Though I never had the good fortune of meeting or interviewing Dio, I did cover what turned out to be his final performance in San Antonio when Heaven & Hell joined Testament and Motorhead in opening for Judas Priest on the Metal Masters tour Aug. 24, 2008, at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.
Shortly after Dio, 67, was diagnosed last summer, longtime friend Rob Halford of Judas Priest told me, “Ronnie’s a fighter. He’s a great friend of mine. I understand they caught it in the early stages . . . I know he’ll pull through. I look forward to seeing Ronnie onstage again.”
Dio’s music influenced many modern artists, most notably Killswitch Engage, who enjoyed success with their cover and video of Dio’s “Holy Diver.” While covering the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival for 210SA last August at the AT&T Center, singer Howard Jones shared the following anecdote when I asked him about whether his band had heard any reaction from Dio:
“Oh, yeah, he was into it. Lamb of God gave us a photo of Dio holding up a sign that says, ‘Hey Killswitch, where are my royalties?’ That’s a pretty good seal of approval.”
That evening, Killswitch Engage used the song to end their set.
Queensryche enlisted Dio to guest star as their fictional “Dr. X” character for the song “The Chase” off their 2006 album Operation: Mindcrime II. Singer Geoff Tate, widely regarded as one of the top metal singers on anyone’s list of all-time greats, was once quoted in a television interview as saying, “How do you ask Ronnie James Dio to do another take?”
From short-and-to-the-point condolences to the poignant sentiments of sadness, from the acknowledgement of Dio’s influence to even a lengthy, heartfelt letter penned by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, here’s a sampling of Sunday’s tributes taken from the subjects’ websites or social networking sites:
- JUDAS PRIEST: We are filled with great sadness at the terrible news about our friend Ronnie James Dio – our condolences and love go to Wendy and Ronnie’s family – Ronnie was a wonderful man and will be sorely missed. ROB, GLENN, K.K., IAN & SCOTT
- KISS: We mourn the tragic passing of the great Ronnie James Dio. In addition to his powerhouse vocal ability, Ronnie was a true gentleman who always emanated great warmth and friendship to us and everyone around him. We will miss him.
- ANTHRAX: Dio, Italian for God. Words won’t do the man justice so we won’t even try. Horns up always!
- JAMEY JASTA (HATEBREED): Rest In Peace Ronnie James Dio. One of the greatest voices in heavy metal history & one of the nicest guys I’ve ever shared the stage with.
- BRIAN FAIR (SHADOWS FALL): RIP Ronnie James Dio. A true metal legend.
- JIM FLORENTINE (THAT METAL SHOW): R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio. Besides being a great singer, he was an amazing human being
- CHRIS JERICHO (FOZZY & WWE wrestler): RIP Ronnie James Dio-a God amongst singers and a true gentleman. Thank you for always being so nice to me. You are the King of Rock and Roll
- DAVID ELLEFSON (MEGADETH): Of course our bright beam from the tour’s glow was dimmed today when we learned of the passing of Ronnie James Dio. He was truly one of the ‘good guys’ in this business and a consummate pro, someone we can all take a (c)ue and learn from. We are all fans of his and he did many great things for Megadeth and its members, starting as far back as his “Dream Evil” North American tour in which we were the support band during the “So Far, So Good…So What” tour. Our prayers go out to him and his family at this time.
- SHAWN DROVER (MEGADETH): I am at an absolute loss right now upon hearing that Ronnie has passed away. I had the pleasure of touring both Canada and America in 2007 when Megadeth toured with “Heaven and Hell” (Black Sabbath in my eyes) and I swear to you he is 1 of the nicest human beings I have ever met, period. Many a night on that tour, Glen and myself would have amazing conversation’s with Ronnie about his career, etc. fully knowing he had probably told these stories 10,000 times to people and yet he answered every question I had with a big smile. I can recall so many times making eye contact with Glen sharing the exact same thought – “Dude, I can’t believe we are hanging with RONNIE JAMES DIO!!!!!” If you are lucky enough in your lifetime to actually meet 1 of your idols (let alone tour with them) and they turn out to be even nicer than you could have envisioned, that is something you would truly treasure. Lucky for me, I will cherish those memories forever
- LARS ULRICH (METALLICA): “A Letter to Ronnie”
And for what it’s worth, one more tribute to the “King of Rock N’ Roll:”
You’re a legend whose music will continue to stand the test of time: You may have been “The Last In Line,” but you’re deservedly No. 1 in many metal fans’ hearts. You rock — and “We Rock” forever thanks to your influence. We metalheads are all “Stars,” and we will always “Stand Up And Shout” with your signature devil horns thrust skyward, helping to ensure that your legacy will live on forever the world over. R.I.P.
(Check out other accounts of Dio’s passing from Waco Metal Music Examiner Yvette Flores, New York Hard Rock Music Examiner Elliot Levin and Pittsburgh Metal Music Examiner Matthew Reinhart).
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