I just read that Ronnie James Dio passed away today at the age of 67 from stomach cancer. I’m definitly in shock, as I didn’t even realize he was sick.
The former Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Elf heavy metal singer, who was fronting the new version of Sabbath, now known as Heaven & Hell, and who popularized the famous devil horn symbol, was definitely one of the great singers of the genre, with his piercing, high-pitched voice. It still amazes me that he was singing as well in his mid-’60s as he did 30 years ago.
It is also amazing to think that Dio had been singing since the late 1950’s, starting out singing rockabilly, of all things. It wasn’t until the band The Electric Elves, who soon became Elf, in the early 1970s, that he started heading in the musical direction of hard rock and heavy metal. In 1975 he joined Ritchie Blackmore’s band Rainbow, and from there he became the Dio everyone knew, with his first big song, “Man on the Silver Mountain,“ probably the best thing Rainbow ever did.
I remember listening to him a lot back when I was a teenager in the ’80s, and I still listened to him every now and again. I believe Sabbath’s Mob Rules, from 1981, was his best all-around album — every song on it is a classic. But of course, Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain,” Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” and his own “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver” are also classics of the genre. His most recent album with Heaven & Hell, The Devil You Know, was probably the best thing he had done in many years. Working with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler again seemed to revitalize him.
His passing is definitely a huge loss to the world of heavy metal, and to Heaven & Hell, who were supposed to go out on tour this summer.
May Ronnie rest in eternal peace. He will certainly never be forgotten. He was a classy guy and one of the great singers of our time.