MetalMonth – Ronnie James Dio

Ronaldo Padavona does not play for Real Madrid. Ronaldo Padavona is better know as Ronnie James Dio. Where the name Dio came from is open to speculation, but he became one of the most admired and respected vocalists in rock music.

I could have written a ‘How I Discovered’ post on Ronnie Dio, except how I discovered him was weird. I didn’t actually know it was him. In 1974 he sang vocals on three songs for Roger Glover’s The Butterfly Ball and The Grasshopper’s Feast.

I heard one of them as a child; Love Is All. I saw the cartoon frog leading a disturbing array of animals towards some bachanalian carry on and thought ‘what a fantastic singer.’ I only found out about three years ago that the singing frog was Ronnie Dio.

Of course it was. Providing the vocals for a cartoon frog was all in a day’s work for a man brought up playing the trumpet. Dio had a band called The Electric Elves, later shortened to The Elves and eventually just Elf. (Had the band survived they would have become E and then probably dispensed with using any letters at all.)

But greater things were to come and the greater part of Elf became the greater part of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in 1975. Ronnie Dio sang for three albums before joining Black Sabbath after Ozzy Osbourne left/died/got kicked out.

I must have come across Ronnie Dio when he went seriously solo and released Holy Diver. Surrounded by polystyrene castles and a fire breathing animatronic dragon he made Yngwie J Malmsteen look like Arthur C Clarke. The dungeons and dragons persona was perfect for an ex-trumpet player who used to be in a band called Elf.

I know, it sounds like I’m taking the piss, but it’s a light hearted piss-take towards a man who was one of the most honest and straight talking members of the rock community in the 1980s. Dio delivered. He gave you your money’s worth and presented it all in a larger than life setting that he would have been the first to admit was pure theatre.

Read any article, watch him interviewed on Youtube and listen to his common sense and common decency. He was instrumental in organising Hear ‘n Aid, the rock response to Geldof’s Live Aid initiative. He believed in honesty and integrity and never took his audience for granted.

And everyone who ever made the devil’s horns symbol probably has Dio to thank for either introducing it to rock, or at least making it part of the visual vocabulary.

In 2009 his stomach cancer was made public and a year later it took his life. But like all heroes his legacy lived on. You don’t have to like his brand of hard rock or his ‘scary’ videos, but you have to admire the little guy from New Hampshire who deservedly became a big presence in the world of rock.

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