Monday, May 17, 2010

R.I.P Ronnie James Dio 1942-2010

Ronnie James Dio, an originator of the genre of music known as "Heavy Metal", and one the greatest rock vocalists of all time has died at the ripe old age of sixty eight. I finally got to see RJD a few years back, and this new(to me)info regarding his age really comes as a shock. The guy was still belting it out as recently as a year ago touring with the Sabbath spin-off Heaven and Hell, still "reaching the high notes." Now Ronnie is gone.

As a prepubescent in the early eighties, the imagery of the band Dio could not possibly have been more alluring, but listening to the bombastic guitars and Ronnie's incredible vocal delivery for the first time was an experience that cannot be duplicated. Usually straight forward enough songs about teenage alienation got dressed up as tales of wizards and dragons, mysterious strangers, or run-ins with spooks, weirdness, and evil doers in general. In fact, no one sang the word "Evil" better than Ronnie and he knew it, and so he sang it over and over, and over. Ronnie kept the high camp value going into his elaborate stage presentation, and is famous for using the "Devil Horn Salute" most prominently (actually his Grandmother's old trick for reversing hexes- Thanks Ronnie!)As a young man coming of age in the early part of the Reagan years, no one individual could be more rightly accused of creating the socially maladroit currently writing this blog than Ronnie James Dio.

Naturally, I grew out of Dio by my late teens, as the coolness Dio pervaded could only truly be understood by pimply faced virgins. Dio would would fall out of favor like all the rest of the hair bands, and eventually become something as a joke for adhering to strict Metal tradition. I was amazed to learn that Dio, like all the great metal bands, had been recording through the 90's and even into this decade, but I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise. By the time he appeared in Tenacious D's Pick of Destiny, there was no doubt that Ronnie was in on the joke, and when I finally got to see him play live and hear how good he still was it become clear that he probably had the most to laugh about. It was like he couldn't age and for a minute his golden pipes allowed me to feel that youthful optimism that I didn't know I had back then or even today. His abilities were such that I had to renounce my cynicism and embrace the goofy elf one more time, and I was looking forward to seeing another performance soon.

It wasn't meant to be, so I'll take what memories I have, crank up some "Holy Diver" and make a Devil Horn Salute in honor of the man on the silver mountain.

This is what it's like to grow old, just watching your heroes die.

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