News of Ronnie James Dio’s death broke yesterday. Dio was one of the most respected talents and characters in heavy metal. His name is synonymous with the genre. His brief battle with stomach cancer prevented him from entering his sixth decade as a frontman. At the time of his death he was 67, and he’d been a recording artist for 52 years.
If you grew up around upstate New York in the ’60s, maybe you have an opinion about Dio. If you grew up in the ‘70s — or after — you definitely have an opinion about Dio. Classic-rock fans have jammed Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain” daily since 1975. If you were a heavy-metal fan in the ’80s, you know Dio’s material as Ozzy’s replacement in Black Sabbath, and you probably dig his solo material just as much. In the '90s, he continued the solo sets and briefly reunited with Sabbath.
If you could care less about classic rock or old-school metal, you probably know his work. In 2006, Hot Topic band Killswitch Engage covered his solo song “Holy Diver” and made it an inescapable hit single.
In 2007, Sabbath and Dio got together again, reconvening Sabbath as Heaven and Hell, and exclusively played Dio-era material, old and new. The once-again-rejuvenated band headlined acclaimed tours worldwide, touring with metal giants from different generations. No matter what size his crowds were, Dio never sucked.
Dio’s death rocked the metal world, and testimony is pouring in about what a great guy he was, onstage and off. We contacted some of Northeast Ohio’s biggest metal fans and performers for their thoughts on the late, great Ronnie James Dio. —D.X. Ferris
“Wow. Just a sad, sad day! Ronnie was just a great man and was the best singer out there. He has taught me so much in my craft on and off the stage, I really have a hard time talking about it. No one will ever pass the torch; he will have it forever! Love to Ronnie James Dio. R.I.P. I am also sadden for Wendy (Ronnie's Heart and soul) [and wife and manager] and all his friends around him. He meant so much to them, and this just has to be extremely hard on them, they have lost a dear, dear friend.” —Tim “Ripper” Owens
“DIO!!!” —Corey Bing, Fistula
“I'm not sure where to start in describing Ronnie James Dio, so I'll start from the beginning. My friends and I met him in 1983, on the Dio tour. We saw dozens of shows on that tour, and all the tours that would follow. Ronnie was not your typical Rock Star. He was one of the sweetest men you would ever want to meet! He had such an amazing voice and huge talent. We started out as fans and quickly became friends. He always took care of us and was very genuine, always asking how we were and how our moms were. (I'm sure that was to hear us say "fine", so he could reply with a "fine," making fun of our accents). He was one of the pioneers in fan-meeting. He made sure to meet fans after the shows outside by the buses, and stayed till he met each and every one. RJD was a little man with a big voice and the biggest heart to match — but not the ego that could have easily gone with all of that talent. He will be greatly missed.” —Karen Wonderly, longtime fan who knew Dio personally