Hello fellow mourners, this is Tom Colohue.
I've been putting this together over the last week as a personal goodbye to a man who was a musical legend and a personal inspiration to myself amongst so many others. He's a man easy to recognise, with a voice that stood out amongst the rest and, even more importantly, a knowledge of rock that spanned multiple bands, writing partnerships and a highly successful and lucrative career. I am talking, of course, about the recently deceased Ronnie James Dio.
At a time when British artists were ruling the rock scene, Ronnie James Dio, as an American artist, would undoubtedly have a difficult time breaking in and making himself known, but his powerful singing voice made sure that people were paying attention. Born Ronald James Padavona on July 10th, 1942, he began performing only fifteen years later with a band called The Vegas Kings. Such was his influence however, that the name was soon changed to Ronnie and the Rumblers, even though, at the time, he was in the position of Bass guitarist.
The name was later changed again to Ronnie and the Redcaps, when Padavona took up the singing position. In 1961, Padavona changed his own name to Ronnie Dio, inspired by the reputation of a mafia member named Johnny Dio. The band changed their name to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets in order to match.
At this point, the reputation of Ronnie Dio is likely much more far reaching than that of Johnny Dio.
His first major success was with a band named The Electric Elves, formed by himself and Prophets guitarist Nick Pantas in 1967, for which he played Bass Guitar and provided the vocals. Over the years the name was shortened, eventually becoming simply Elf.
A connection with the British rock band Deep Purple brought them forward into the mainstream media, with their self-titles debut album being produced by Purple Bassist, Roger Glover and Purple Drummer, Ian Paice. This connection gave Elf the chance to play to much larger crowds than a band at their level would usually be able to, acting as the opener for the much more successful Deep Purple.
Due to the inherent power of his voice, Dio was asked to perform on Roger Glover's solo album, creating the single Love Is All. This reached number 1 in the Netherlands, giving Dio his first taste of commercial success.
Far from the last, Dio next attracted the attention of Purple's infamous guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore. At this point, unhappy with the direction that his current band was going in, Blackmore wished to create something new, and Dio was the new addition that he was looking for to lead him forward. Quoted as stating that he persuaded Dio by getting him drunk first, Blackmore took the members of Elf, minus guitarist Steve Edwards, into the studio and recorded what was to be their first album, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. What had first attracted Blackmore to Dio, was a cover featured on this album, named Black Sheep Of The Family.
Dio continued with Rainbow for the two following albums: Rising and Long Live Rock N' Roll. During this time, some of the more progressive, medieval influenced music was written, such as Stargazer and Gates Of Babylon. Unfortunately, the creative rift between Dio and Blackmore appeared when their commercial success, not at the level of Blackmore's previous band, became an issue for the guitarist. While Dio wished to hold on to the past influences, Blackmore wished to come forward and appeal to a more contemporary audience. It was because of these differences that Ronnie James Dio left the band.
In 1979, Dio made his next big move into the world of rock and metal. His most widely successful and popular position was as the replacement for Ozzy Osbourne in the already incredibly popular Black Sabbath. Amongst touring and recording the albums Heaven And Hell and The Mob Rules, Dio also featured in the first official live Sabbath album, titled Live Evil. Dio performed with Black Sabbath until 1982, when, while mixing the Live Evil album, he decided to leave Black Sabbath and pursue his own preferred musical direction with Sabbath's then drummer, Vinny Appice. The band was simply named Dio. It was with this band that Dio spent the majority of his musical career, spending a total of sixteen years performing with them. Their debut album, Holy Diver, earned them attention from the mainstream media via the medium of MTV.
Sadly, Dio was at this point afflicted of the same revolving door of artists that Blackmore had suffered during the years with Rainbow. With members constantly back and forth, the band did briefly succumb and vanish between 1991 and 1993, but, impossible to silence, it returned with a vengeance and continued on until May 16th, 2010, with the death of the man himself.
Before this, in 2006, Dio had reformed with the former members of Black Sabbath to put together the band Heaven And Hell' after their first album together. After only one album and a world tour though, we come to today, with Dio sadly absent.
This is a brief look at the trail left behind by one of the most influential and powerful men that rock has ever seen. I haven't even wandered down the literal ton of non-commercially successful or viable material that he created during his time bringing his voice to people, young and old, across the world. Despite being American, Ronnie James Dio was one of the biggest names during the British Invasion, and we here in Great Britain would gladly claim him as our own.
With so many different links, recordings and performances and even a cameo in a feature film, it's hard to imagine how people could fail to discover this man at some point in their lives. I first discovered him on an old Rainbow compilation album that I'd bought due to my preference of Blackmore as a guitarist. Nevertheless, Dio had carved his own room in each and every track. He competed with such a powerful musician and on so many songs, he made them his own. Amongst such greats as Blackmore and Iommi, he brings as much rock n' roll to the table as they do, and he still will when I introduce my children to Rainbow.
When I heard the news, I saw people saying that they would put on Holy Diver, or Stargazer in tribute. Personally, the one song that has always stuck with me is Catch The Rainbow, from the very first Rainbow album. Live, with, at times, improvised lyrics, it is staggering, but I've always had a particular weakness for the studio version. It is a truly beautiful song, created by truly gifted musicians. All of them had a gift to share with the world. For Ronnie James Dio, it was his voice. While some singers have voices that fade into the background, or that seem indistinguishable from any other, I know when I'm listening to Dio. I'm sure you do as well.
This has been a personal tribute to a great man, who died of stomach cancer after fighting it for so long, on May 16th, 2010. With musicians, singers especially, something is left behind that will hold their memory forever. You can listen to Elf, Ronnie Dio and The Prophets, Dio, Black Sabbath or Rainbow, but you can most certainly hear him in them. With that, you remember him, and honour him with that.
Goodbye Ronnie James Dio. You will be missed.
Come the dawn Come the dawn Come the dawn Come the dawn
Written by Tom Colohue, inspired by someone greater.