Heavy metal’s own woodland elf, singer Ronnie James Dio has died, aged 67.
Dio has a rock pedigree as long as Gene Simmons’ tongue. After more than a decade earning his rock’n'roll stripes, in 1975 Dio joined ex-Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in the first line-up of Blackmore’s post-Purple project Rainbow. Their debut album is a classic of mid-’70s rock, an overblown, rich, creamy Baked Alaska of an album, full of guitar-posing, pseudo-classical wankery. (Here’s one of my favourite tracks, “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves“.)
Fast forward a few records and Dio has split with Blackmore to take over vocal duties for Black Sabbath, following the departure of Ozzy Osbourne. This is where I first came across the pint-sized vocalist, on his first outing with Sabbath, Heaven and Hell from 1980. What a corker! Sabbath fans could rest assured that their beloved band was in good hands.
Here is the promo video for the first track, “Neon Knights”, a manic rocker which has our friend Ronnie James delightfully invoking dragons, kings, circles, rings, and a host of other quasi-Tolkienesque imagery. Sort of like Bilbo Baggins on speed. (Please ignore the sloppily tacked on faux applause.)
Dio stayed with Sabbath for one more studio album and also appears on their double live record “Live Evil” – which I begged for, and happily received, for my 14th birthday. Yippee!
In the years that followed, Dio released numerous solo records, re-joined Sabbath and lived life to the full. Perhaps he should be best remembered for his stirring vocal on the 1974 hit “Love Is All”, the animated video clip for which I have fond memories of watching as a youngster. (It still brings a tear to the eye…)
Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)