Sunday, May 16, 2010

Some Notes on Ronnie James Dio

I just found out that Ronnie James Dio died of stomach cancer early this morning. Some of you may not know who that is, so I will tell you: He was a pioneering heavy metal singer. A very small man with a very huge voice. He dressed unabashedly dramatic, in capes and armor. He carried a sword in most of his videos. There were often dragons and pyrotechnics at his shows. He was the age of my father, and his heyday was a bit before my time, but if you know metal, you know that we respect our forefathers.

In addition to singing for Rainbow and Black Sabbath, he did his own thing, which was just called Dio. Their logo was a lovely calligraphy that all the metalheads learned to draw -- except this one. But I had friends. So my notebook too had "DIO" emblazoned across it in that perfect calligraphy all through junior high and high school.

His wife's report to the media said he died peacefully, and I'm glad for that. He was young for a normal person, but old for a rock star. I'm glad we had him for as long as we did and that he died in a dignified way, with his family beside him.

I'm not a huge Dio fan. I tend to favor deep, growling, harsh voices. Ronnie James Dio was an operatic-style singer. But I always appreciated his focus on the battle between good and evil. One of the reasons I began to love metal when I was 14 was that it addressed spiritual matters in a serious way. Dio is part of the reason it does that, and so he is part of the reason this music has been such a comfort and inspiration to me for such a long time.

And so this is the little thing I've written in order for my voice to be added to the many who pause to mourn and celebrate him. As a performer, he was grandiose, and fun, and a legend who never disappointed us, even in death.

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