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The hope without the fear

Ronnie James Dio, Big Flats NY, June 29 2002 photo &copy Nick Soveiko cc-by-nc-sa

Ronnie James Dio passed away on May 16, 2010. Louder Sound is reprinting the tribute article that first appeared in Classic Rock magazine #147, June 2010.

Music was central to his life from an early age. Although he never received any formal vocal training, as a child he mastered French horn and trumpet, to which he later attributed the breathing control pivotal to his singing power. He played bass guitar in his first professional group, The Vegas Kings, a rockabilly outfit formed in 1957 and based in New York State. But it didn’t take him long to answer his true calling.

By the end of 1958, he was lead singer of a new-look band, Ronnie & The Red Caps, later renamed Ronnie Dio & The Prophets after Ronnie had adopted a stage name appropriated from mobster Johnny Dio. Success did not come quickly. As the rock era dawned in the 60s, Dio toiled in obscurity as leader of the Electric Elves, subsequently shortened to Elf. But in the early 70s came the break that he had longed for, when Deep Purple’s Roger Glover and Ian Paice saw potential in Elf and elected to produce the band’s self-titled debut album.

And from there, a strong connection was formed between the two bands – a connection that led Dio to the man who would transform his career and change his life…

Continue reading in Louder Sound.



15 Comments to “The hope without the fear”:

  1. 1
    Ivica says:

    1975-1982 Golden Years (5 great albums) great company Ritchie, Tony, Cozy, Geezer and Martin Birch.Afterwards one-dimensional immersed in HM, for me HM when I listen to it for too long … bored. Of course,his great performance Part with Deep Purple & Orchestra “Sitting in a Dream and Love is All” .Ronnie James great artist …one of the greatest in rock history.

  2. 2
    Buttockss says:

    Missed everyday buy most rockers & metalheads everwhere!

  3. 3
    Uwe Hornung says:

    By no means his best musical contribution (and, yes, the lyrics do contain, inevitably, the words “magic”, “night”, “rainbow”, “light” and “heart”), even ultra-cheesy if LA Metal ain’t your thing, but for a worthy cause (and hence a worthy part of Dio history) and a real flashback to mid-eighties hair metal subculture with lots of heroes from back then, youngish looking and quite a few – like Ronnie – lamentably no longer with us.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl15Wj2MwUw

    Those mixed together individual guitar solos (ironically, for the most part sounding like one guy played it all, that is how repetitive it all had become though technically all these guys were of course ace) sure sound like one gargantuan wankfest! ; – )

    I like to remember Ronnie for (i) his gentle smile on stage and (ii) music like this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-c_0-ufRtk

    It’s too bad that he and Mickey Lee Soule never had the chance to record with each other again once Ritchie had abducted him to the realm of dungeons & dragons.

  4. 4
    Ivan says:

    Rest in peace, Ronnie. Missed by many.

    Had the pleasure of seeing him twice in concert, first time with Deep Purple and Scorpions, summer of 2002 in an outdoor (Lakewood amphitheater, I believe). I had fifth road seats, he was absolutely mesmerizing.

    Second time was later that year at a smaller venue also in Atlanta, at The Masquerade, with Kings X and Hammerfall opening. Dio was amazing, again. What voice, what stage presence.

  5. 5
    James Steven Gemmell says:

    I’m sorry, but I saw Dio as a spoiled, ungrateful jerk. Great singer before he tried to be thrash metal in the 1990s. But Blackmore pave the way for this obscure vocalist to become a millionaire superstar by inviting him into Rainbow. Dio would later pout about Ritchie’s photos being more prominent on the albums than his. And he had the audacity to whine about Side 2 of the “Rising” album featuring too much of Ritchie’s solos on “Stargazer” and “A Light in the Black.” Never mind that that was some of the best guitar work in history. Dio was envious because his vocals weren’t highlighted as much as the instrumentals. He confronted Ritchie about the photos and Ritchie said “I’ve got to get rid of this egotistical monster.” Dio was ready to leave, anyway. Then, Dio did two fine studio albums with Sabbath but whined about the mix on the “Live Evil” and left in a huff to form his solo band. But not before criticizing Iommi, saying “At least, Ritchie had some talent.” Dio also slagged Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan for their efforts with Sabbath. Vivian Campbell did an outstanding job playing lead guitar on Dio’s first couple of solo albums. But while Dio was becoming independently wealthy, Campbell was making less money some of the roadies. Dio simply used him like a rag doll and when Campbell complained, Dio ditched him. When his solo career died, he rejoined Sabbath but wanted Dehumanizer to sound like thrash metal and he and Iommi clashed again. Then it was a series of horrible-sounding solo albums again for Dio. A little man with a big voice and even bigger ego.

  6. 6
    MacGregor says:

    There is no doubt about it, those early melodic Elf songs would have pricked the ears of both Glover & Blackmore back then. Especially Glover for The Butterfly Ball concept, although we have read about Dio’s fascination with Blackmore’s medieval style. Dio was always interested in the rock side of things at that time, to finally stamp himself upon a few grand concepts which eventually ended with Sabbath’s Mob Rules album. Although I really like the Dehumanizer album, there are many wonderful songs on that & it dragged Dio out of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy lyric themes, kicking & screaming possibly however that was always a good thing. It was time for some serious rock music again with the dark lords. And again in the 2005 era until the end.
    That Sabbath 1992 reunion although brief, really showed up Dio’s solo career being mediocre at best. He was more than a ‘metal’ vocalist as the metal heads continue their sad attempt to claim him as one of theirs. Those high quality rock singers from that 60’s & 70’s era were miles above heavy metal & it’s limitations, many stratospheres higher. The metal fraternity also continually & woefully claim that Purple, Zeppelin & Sabbath are entrapped in their abyss. Guess what guys, they NEVER have been or EVER will be. I have been meaning to state that fact for many decades. Cheers.

  7. 7
    MacGregor says:

    @ 5 – I have also read similar stories over the decades, as long as they are not taken out of context or edited for whatever reason, we may never know. I remember a journalist labelling Dio, Ronnie James Ego back in the 80’s or 90’s, somewhere around then. However it could also be what the cliched rock ‘n roll band situation is tarnished with, the lead guitarist verses the lead vocalist scenario. The two biggest ego’s in a rock band usually are that, not always though, but it does seem to be a trend of sorts. Blackmore v Gillan, Ozzy v Iommi, Daltrey v Townshend, just a few big names clashing over what probably were smaller things in retrospective. Obviously Ronnie James Dio was well over being in someone else’s band playing second fiddle, same as Ozzy Osbourne was by the early 80’s, so when they went solo it was always going to be their way. They ended up joining the queue it seems. It happens, but in hindsight Dio & Ozzy probably regretted some things, I don’t know, some do, some don’t! Cheers.

  8. 8
    Svante Axbacke says:

    Ego or not, I know that when it came to the fans, Dio always had time to stop outside the venue and have a chat with the fans and sign stuff.

  9. 9
    MacGregor says:

    @ 8 – yes he was really good at appreciating the fans etc. I remember an older interview with him & his disgust with Blackmore’s attitude back in the day riled him big time. He went out of his way to enjoy fans company many times. Back in the Rainbow & early Sabbath era he seemed to be a down to earth sort of guy. He was wonderful by the Heaven & Hell time, he mellowed a little perhaps as many do. Cheers.

  10. 10
    Uwe Hornung says:

    James @5: Ronnie wasn’t always a holy diver under his ego and absence makes the heart grow fonder, granted. He also had his wife take care of the business side of things, not a recipe usually welcomed by band mates, just ask Ozzy’s musicians. Also, all those incidents you’ve mentioned have been reported before and are likely true, but, mind you, they happened over a career in rock lasting four decades. During that time span everyone is allowed to be snappy, mean, unjust, ungrateful or simply wrong once in a while. At least I have been.

    Ronnie was no saint (nor were all the people he played with) and it’s good to remind ourselves of that once in a while, the temple of worship that has been built around him since his sad death tends to obscure an objective view.

    Musically though, whether he was with Blackers, Iommi or going solo, he always forged an individual sound (together with the people around him). I guess nearly everyone will agree that Rainbow sounded its most idiosyncratic in the Dio line-ups and that aside from the early Ozzy era, no other Sabbath line-up proved as much a musical influence than the one with the little man. He deserves credit for that.

    And I’m not even one of those people who automatically fall to their knees when they hear Ronnie singing. An excellent singer he was (especially with Elf!), but also one who took – much like Paul Rodgers – little chances, both musically and vocally. I have a preference for singers that are more daring, stretch their limits, even if that means occasional potential failure in a live setting, the Ian Gillan, Graham Bonnet, Steven Tyler and Robert Halford type of singers who don’t always play it safe.

  11. 11
    Uwe Hornung says:

    “The metal fraternity also continually & woefully claim that Purple, Zeppelin & Sabbath are entrapped in their abyss. Guess what guys, they NEVER have been or EVER will be. I have been meaning to state that fact for many decades.”

    I hear you, Herr MacGregor, but if you boil it down, the differentiation between hard rock, heavy rock and heavy metal (and it’s myriad sub-genres) gets difficult and often arbitrary, unless you belong to the “I know it when I see it”-school as one judge once wrote to discern erotic art from porn.

    Let’s face it: If an unknown band released “In Rock” today, it would get adopted by Metal Hammer and Amazon’s algorithms would peddle it to people who otherwise hear heavy metal. I know, the inaneness of some aspects of heavy metal can sometimes make one wince, but complaining about heavy metal if you have a Deep Purple collection at home is a bit like eggs deriding omelettes. It all came from something and DP is – like it or not – one of the culprits. And since – like in any genre – there are also quite a few very good metal bands out there, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  12. 12
    Buttockss says:

    @ 8…….So true! Met Ronnie during the 83 tour with twisted sister at the Tower Theatre in Philly. Ronnie was so happy to be there and was very appreciative of all the fans.

  13. 13
    James Steven Gemmell says:

    I give Ian Gillan high marks for calling out the bouncers and even hitting some of them when they unnecessarily roughhoused fans in the stands. As much as he loves to sing, he hates unjustified brutality even more.

  14. 14
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Dio always went out of his way to be extra-nice to fans. It was part of his disciplined, professional DNA and he was very good at it, even if he might sometimes – like all of us – felt otherwise. He did NOT look down on people who adored him (you’d be surprised how many people in the same situation actually do). Absolutely commendable, but perhaps not always mirroring his intra-band politics. But then if you’re only 5 ft 4 / 1,63 m you better learn to assert yourself in a professional situation. Or try to rule Europe until they stop you at Waterloo, whatever.

    Ian G can be nice and gentle too, but it is not always his modus operandi, he can be withdrawn, moody, aloof and highbrow too, just read Colin Hart’s book.

    I personally don’t have issues with “difficult artists” who can show the occasional mean streak: Dylan, Zappa, Miles Davis, Prince, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Francis Rossi (yes him, there is a stage Rossi and a private one and never the two shall meet) and that guy who used to play guitar with that band with the duh-duh-duuuuh-song and is now a renaissance reclusive in unicorn land. I tend to think it comes with the talent. But there is nothing wrong with being outright nice like Dio, Halford or McCartney (mostly!) either.

  15. 15
    MacGregor says:

    The heavy metal conundrum. I do find it rather amusing in many ways, trying to fit Zeppelin & Purple especially into that genre. It is what it is & Tony Iommi stumbling across those riffs back in the early to mid 70’s certainly has some explaining to do. Ha, Ha, Ha!
    Seriously though even Iommi has always stated that Sabbath is a rock band, heavy hard rock, not metal. Didn’t Motorhead open their shows with ‘we are Motorhead & we play rock ‘n roll”? The guys from Comic Strip Presents & The Young Ones did those comedy shows ‘Bad News’ back in the early 80’s, they even played Reading festival from memory with Motorhead, Ozzy & many other bands at that time. I think that was before Spinal Tap from my memory. Their (Bad News) version of Bohemian Rhapsody is bad news indeed, a classic send up! I have a few metal albums in my collection , Judas Priest Screaming For Vengeance, Living Colour’s first 3 albums. Stain that is brutal that album. Dream Theater Awake & Falling into Infinity & I even purchased the Metallica Black album back in the day. Sheesh, the world did turn black on that day. So many Metallica fans rabid that their idols had sold out etc. All it was was a more melodic song orientated approach at the time. More melody may have confused the legions of fans..
    I didn’t last long being a metal fan though, sold the Metallica album & don’t play Living Colour anymore or Dream Theater,. Although I did recently watch some Living Colour live from that era & more recently out of curiosity & enjoyed most of it. My 90’s metal trip was a faze I went through back then & I just managed to pull myself out of the abyss that I was being dragged into, ha, ha! Speaking of Metallica, I read a recent comment or two from Kirk Hammett that he was getting into Jethro Tull, the first 5 albums apparently. He loves it & I always wondered that one day one of them is going to stumble upon the mighty Tull & realise, they are a great band etc. I still believe that the Grammy award to Tull in 1987 was a deliberate act by the hierarchy, maybe a message to the metal bands, possibly I don’t know. However there is a sort of look down & put down of that genre & as we know the R&RHOF don’t go there. Only Metallica, (Being so successful & American) would have influenced the Hall to put them in. Only now are a British metal band being recognised in Judas Priest. I remember the legions of fans at the Iron Maiden gig I went to, so many denim & leather jackets etc. I felt quite safe though as I was wearing my Heaven & Hell shirt. They were a good crowd, well behaved surprisingly, he, he, he! It is all good & there is another band who I don’t consider ‘metal’, Maiden. Just a high octane version of Wishbone Ash, for want of a better description. I don’t hear those dreaded chugging repetitive riffs in Maiden, good songs with melody & high energy rock music. Cheers.

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