Why was Ronnie James Dio so universally adored?

I was turfing out my archive of Classic Rock magazines the other day as I needed the space in my newly set up office (yes, I’m writing full time now). I loved these magazines, but no one wanted to buy them on ebay and I was having a hard time finding anyone to take them off my hands. Anyway, I finally found a willing connoisseur who would act as a curator of my fine collection and appreciate them for the treasure trove they were.

After setting them out in piles (there were over ten years’ worth), one issue was staring me in the face. It was this one:

There was no getting over it, the magazine was telling me ‘you’re not going to pass me on too are you?

I carefully picked the issue up and started leafing through the articles on RJD. This magazine was brought out in 2010, very soon after this awesome singer passed away as a result of a long battle with stomach cancer. It also reminded me that he was a major inspiration throughout my life and, in particular, for the novel I’m bringing out later this month. Those of you who have received an advance copy will have noticed the dedication at the beginning of the book. What you may not have realised, is that every chapter in the book is the title of one of his songs. They span his career from Rainbow, Black Sabbath, to Dio and the final swan song with his old Sabbath mates: Heaven and hell.

Just for curiosity’s sake, I listed the chapters and scanned through them again. Here they are:

  1. Just another day
  2. I speed at night
  3. The eyes
  4. Another lie
  5. Don’t talk to strangers *
  6. Master of the moon
  7. Push *
  8. Feed my head
  9. Falling off the edge of the world *
  10. As long as it’s not about love *
  11. Atom and evil *
  12. Hey angel
  13. Caught in the middle
  14. Holy diver *
  15. Between two hearts *
  16. Bible black *
  17. Last in line *
  18. Invisible *
  19. Neon Knights *
  20. Light in the black *
  21. Gates of Babylon *
  22. Strange highways
  23. Too late *
  24. Faces in the window *
  25. Slipping away
  26. The mob rules *
  27. Like the beat of a heart *
  28. Do you close your eyes
  29. Computer God *
  30. Firehead
  31. Mystery
  32. Catch the rainbow *
  33. Sensitive to light
  34. Letters from Earth *
  35. All the fools sailed away *
  36. Ear in the wall
  37. Sunset superman
  38. One more for the road
  39. Lock up the wolves
  40. Heaven and hell *
  41. I *
  42. Man on the silver mountain *
  43. Killing the dragon *
  44. After all (The dead.) *

As I looked at the list again, I was struck by the fact that many of the chapter titles weren’t in fact favourite songs of mine. I simply chose the title from Dio’s vast catalogue according to whether I thought the sentiment in the lyrics fitted the plot or a character in the story.

Anyhow, I asterisked the songs that I thought were ‘classic’ with the thought that I could provide links to youtube that gave those who weren’t familiar with his work, a fitting introduction. It was at this point I noticed some glaring ommissions. So, if you’ve never heard any of his output, can I recommend the following as a starting point:

Stargazer  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6CjO0H2j0s (desktop) or

Tarot Woman  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5m6fSlaXhY  (desktop) or http://youtu.be/dAVJO18j-do (mobile)

Kill the King –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3ZfrCPKEqM (desktop) or http://youtu.be/hL0GTHhtCXU  (mobile)

Long live rock n’ roll – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csmfoNEY8F8  (desktop)  http://youtu.be/sLN8lHBBKck (mobile)

Die young – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KbkQqFmUAU

Stand up and shout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GO53tkuvtpg

So, back to the question – why did Dio have a legion of fans the world over? Was it the quality of his voice? He certainly had one of the most distinctive and powerful set of pipes in the rock world – and he was still pumping out the decibels at the age of 67. Or could it be that he was credited with introducing an almost universal symbol to heavy metal – the sign of the Malik, or devil’s horns?

Then there’s his mystical and poetic lyrics and his association with some of the greatest musicians ever to strut the stage: Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Cozy Powell – the list goes on. No, these facts are all true, but I think his greatest appeal was in the way he treated his fans. Just scour youtube and you will find countless examples where he stayed for hours after his shows to talk to his followers, sign his autograph and generally shoot the breeze. When he died, the tributes poured in from all quarters. It’s testament to his legacy that a number of Dio tribute albums have been brought out in the last ten years featuring artists such as Metallica, Tenacious D, Jorne Lande and Doro Pesch (to name but a few).

So, fill your boots, Connoisseurs of Chaos and check out some of the asterisked songs on my chapter list, while I raise a glass to the Man on the Silver Mountain – I could think of no better a person to dedicate my first novel to.

Speaking of which, have you seen my book trailer video for the Psychonaut? Well here it is: