Friends, disciples and fans throughout the heavy metal community are remembering the late Ronnie James Dio as not only one of the best but one of the kindest vocalists in history. The singer for Black Sabbath, Rainbow and of course, Dio, succumbed to cancer on Sunday at age 67.
“The world has lost a real talent and a genuinely great man,” Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor said in an e-mail to MTV News. “Words cannot describe my sadness and music will never be the same without his voice and honesty. He will always be an icon to heavy metal and hard rock. On behalf of all of the fans and the singers inspired by his life, we will miss you, Ronnie.”
“Few people have had the ability to carry a song like Dio, literally demanding your attention as he effortlessly re-created live the amazing things he did on record,” Slayer guitarist Kerry King told MTV. “It’s odd how things get taken from you quickly. I just saw him a month ago. I know I was lucky to have known Ronnie, one of the nicest guys in the business, without a doubt. He will be hugely missed.”
Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian echoed that common sentiment: “Ronnie was the nicest man in metal,” he declared. “Every day on tour, he’d have a kind word, a smile and a clap on the back. I feel honored and privileged to even have shaken hands with Ronnie, let alone be able to say we were friends.”
“The first time I heard Ronnie James Dio, I thought he was a larger person, because the voice was so huge!” added Ian’s bandmate, drummer Charlie Benante. “It was Rainbow and I was a fan of his from then on. ‘Man on the Silver Mountain,’ ‘Heaven and Hell,’ ‘Rainbow in the Dark.’ The songs are endless.
“The sound of his voice with those bands was always so perfect,” Benante continued. “It was his God-given instrument. He was true metal and the creator of the metal hand sign. He was divine.”
As I Lay Dying singer Tim Lambesis remembered being awed by Dio’s vocal strength whenever the two bands shared festival stages together. “He literally sounded flawless, every time. He made vocalists 30 years younger than him sound out of shape by comparison. And Dio was unapologetically metal. He stuck with what he loved and excelled as a vocalist who inspired our entire genre.”
Coheed & Cambria guitarist Travis Stever agreed that Dio’s voice “was never touched by age.” Reflecting on his band’s tour with Heaven and Hell (the new name of the recently reunited Dio-fronted version of Black Sabbath) he said, “Sharing a stage with our heroes was a dream come true for us. Dio had every bit of the magic he always did in every performance. Always stronger and stronger with every record. We will miss hearing that voice. But we have his huge body of work to dive into whenever we want. I am glad I got to tell him how much his music meant to us.”
Fireball Ministry toured with Dio’s solo band in 2004. When Dio learned the stoner rock group had gone a few nights without a dressing room, he invited them to share his anytime they wanted. “We spent the rest of the time on the road in that dressing room with him as much as we could,” said singer/ guitarist Rev. James A. Rota II. “He treated us as his equals, even though we were his disciples.
“Not only was he a true gentleman, but he also never hit a bad note the whole tour,” Rota added. “From ‘Gates of Babylon’ to ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers,’ his voice was always perfection. On one of the nights in the dressing room, I asked him, ‘Ronnie, what do you do before each show to warm up?’ His reply, as he gave me a sly pat on the shoulder: ‘Jimmy, you either got it, or you don’t.’ He obviously had it.”
“I have been a fan of Dio for as long as I can remember. ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’! What a voice!” exclaimed Ozzy Osbourne bass player Rob “Blasko” Nicholson. “I was fortunate enough to meet him for the first time at the Golden Gods Awards this year. He was kind enough to take a few minutes to chat with me. He was in great spirits that night, despite his health. A total gentleman.”
In addition to those who spoke with MTV News, several musicians took to their official websites, Twitter accounts and social-networking pages to express their grief and gratitude to Ronnie. Slash, Sebastian Bach and members of Kiss, Megadeth, Mötley Crüe, Smashing Pumpkins, Queensryche, Dream Theater, Hatebreed, Machine Head and Exodus were just a few of the folks paying their respects online. His onetime Rainbow bandmate Ritchie Blackmore and former Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson did so, as well.
In an extremely heartfelt, personal and lengthy letter to Ronnie posted on Metallica’s official website, drummer Lars Ulrich recalled seeing Dio’s band Elf opening for Deep Purple in Denmark in 1975.
“I was completely blown away by the power in your voice, your presence on stage, your confidence, and the ease with which you seemed to connect to 6,000 Danish people and one starry-eyed 11-year-old,” he wrote. Ulrich met Dio outside a hotel the following year and never lost his sense of fandom around the singer. Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax were set to share European festival stages with Heaven and Hell this summer, before Heaven and Hell canceled the dates due to Dio’s illness.
“We will miss you immensely on the dates, and we will be thinking of you with great admiration and affection during that run,” Ulrich said. “It seemed so right to have you out on tour with the so-called ‘Big Four’ since you obviously were one of the main reasons that the four bands even exist.”
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