It’s been a sad few weeks for metal. With the passing of Peter Steele, fans mourned one of the genre’s vampiric, self-deprecating and complicated legends—but a legend that you might run into at a show. The legacy of Ronnie James Dio seems so much more untouchable and pure.
The man who threw the horns has died.
It’s not to imply Dio’s long career was free of conflict. He is primarily known by many as the man who took over for Ozzy—something some stubborn originalists still scoff at—but Dio’s character and charisma seemed to erode barriers. I can’t imagine getting in an argument with Ronnie James Dio. I’m sure it could happen, but having seen the Dio-era Sabbath recreation Heaven & Hell, I have trouble thinking of a more genuine performer in his framework. Such positive energy radiated out of him, with charming introductions to the songs and an endearing persona.
To see him perform was to see truly elegant heavy metal. Not only was his voice atypically fantastic, but it was so recognizable, his phrasing so idiosyncratic. It’s the kind of voice the term classic is reserved for.
Many singers of his era remain, and they know how to put on a show, but Dio, well-rehearsed though he was, was earnest in his performances. You got the feeling that he cared that you showed up, and you don’t get that all the time.
Having never spoken to him or met him, like so many in the heavy metal and classic rock community that are grieving and posting remembrances online, I can’t personally vouch for this information. But I believe it. Just from the memory of his onstage performances. You could just feel the love from Ronnie James Dio. And I believe the remembrances are free of hyperbole even when bands refer to him as “the best singer of rock in the world.”
He was really that good.