In the hours after legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio’s death on Sunday, the Blabbermouth website has been filled with comments from musicians paying tribute to the vocalist, who fronted Rainbow, Black Sabbath and, of course, Dio during his long and influential career.
Among the many noteworthy comments were ones from his former bandmates. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who left Deep Purple in 1975 to form Rainbow with Dio, was characteristically terse in his statement: “Ronnie had a unique and wonderful voice. He will be sadly missed in the rock and roll world.”
Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi — who worked with Dio three separate times over the years, twice in Black Sabbath and most recently with Heaven and Hell — said:
“Yesterday, 16th May, my dear, dear friend Ronnie James Dio passed away at 7.45 a.m. L.A. time. I’ve been in total shock; I just can’t believe he’s gone.
“Ronnie was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. We had some fantastic times together. Ronnie loved what he did, making music and performing onstage. He loved his fans so much. He was a kind man and would put himself out to help others.
“I can honestly say it’s truly been an honor to play at his side for all these years. His music will live on forever.
“Our thoughts are with [Dio’s wife/manager] Wendy Dio, who stood by Ronnie until the end. He loved her very much. The man with the magic voice is a star amongst stars, a true professional.
“I’ll miss you so much, my dear friend.”
Heaven and Hell were scheduled to tour Europe this summer but cancelled earlier this year owing to Dio’s condition.
Former Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson said, “I am privileged to have been a part of Ronnie James Dio’s life and music. His closest ones are in my thoughts.”
And former Dio keyboardist Jens Johansson wrote a long post remembering the singer.
“I hesitated a bit to write something about this. In a way it feels weird to use this sad day to attract attention to myself. Then I realized I also feel a bit strange to not even comment in public.
“I joined Dio-the-band for about a year in the early ’90s, that’s how I got to know Ronnie. Him, and let’s not forget Wendy, who is still very much alive. They were a team. …
“My time in Dio was simply one of the best times in my life. Ronnie was one of the best people I ever met, very different from the usual musicians and other suspects in this wretched industry. I think this is something you will hear over and over — you have heard it before he was gone, and you will also keep hearing it after he is gone. Quite simply, because it’s the truth. And especially towards fans.
“If you didn’t realize it by now, you can ask anyone who met him. Ronnie was the guy signing autographs in the cold rain after the point where any mere mortal would have crawled back into bed. It was insane. His dedication to the fans was not from this world. He is the guy that finally made it dawn on me who it is who actually pays the bills — it is the fans. …
“His voice was like a tank… I never heard him have a bad day. I have honestly never met anyone else like this in my whole life. Even if he stayed up all night drinking and talking, he would still deliver 150 percent the next day.
“From his performing, you’d think he was 22 years old, his whole life… but if you look at how much he accomplished, you’d think he lived to the age of 120.
“My best memories of the time with him are either him laughing at something I or someone else said, or me laughing at something he said, or any of the many running gags that he created. …
“He was very intelligent. He was, without a question, NOT some sort of devil worshipper or Satanist. He grew up in a small town and was what I would call just a ’very decent person.’ He had higher morals than most people I have met, and definitely he had higher morals than I have. He just didn’t particularly believe in God of the Christian bible, I think. But he was really spiritual and thought about deep issues, a lot.
“I realize this may sound like I’m trying to paint too soft a picture. I am really racking my brains here and I couldn’t think of anything bad to say about him even if I tried. The only thing I can think of is that his character definitely had a surprising bite when something pissed him off; he didn’t suffer fools lightly. If you were a fool in his path, and all options of patience, understanding and politeness had been exhausted, then he didn’t hold back verbally… beware, fool, you might have two a–holes all of a sudden, or your head might be rolling on the floor! I, of course, found this extremely amusing (unless it was me who was the unwitting fool, which I think happened, like, once).
“I don’t exaggerate when I say I feel him being gone is a loss for humanity, but I still try to look at the glass as half full. Imagine if he would have died at 27 like so many other geniuses. As a listener I’m thankful for that grace, and as a person I’m thankful I got to know him. …
“The music he made will remain after me, or anyone reading this, will be gone. So unless you did already, put some of it on. If it puts an evil smile on your face, then your day is better. That’s all any musician can ask from you.”
Share your memories of Ronnie James Dio and his musical legacy in the comments below.