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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Metal Legends Pay Tribute to Ronnie James Dio

Written by Jon Williams

Legendary rock singer Ronnie James Dio passed away in 2010 at the age of 67. Before that, his powerful and distinctive voice led him through a career fronting a number of notable hard rock and metal outfits. He got his start with a band called the Vegas Kings in 1957, a band that would change names several times over the next several years. His big break came when his band Elf started touring with Deep Purple.

On that tour, Dio’s voice caught the attention of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who was on the verge of leaving Deep Purple. The two teamed up to form the band Rainbow, which would release three albums with Dio as the lead singer. The first, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in 1975, contained the rock staple “Man on the Silver Mountain.” Rainbow Rising followed in 1976, with Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll coming in 1978. When Blackmore decided at that point that he wanted to take the band in a more mainstream, radio-friendly direction, Dio began to contemplate his own departure.

Dio got his chance in 1979 when he met guitarist Tony Iommi of the band Black Sabbath, who had just fired their own singer, Ozzy Osbourne. Dio soon joined up, and their first album, Heaven and Hell, was released in April of 1980. Mob Rules (currently out of print), which came out in 1981, was Dio’s second and last studio album with the band. While they were touring in support of that album, they recorded the live set Live Evil, which features Dio performing classic Sabbath hits like “War Pigs” and “Iron Man.” However, during the production of that album, discord set in and Dio once again set out on his own.

This time, he decided to form his own band, named, fittingly enough, Dio. He brought along drummer Vinnie Appice from Sabbath and bassist Jimmy Bain from Rainbow, then added guitarist Vivian Campbell (now of Def Leppard). In May of 1983, they released their debut album, Holy Diver. The title track and the single “Rainbow in the Dark” received heavy airplay on rock radio and MTV, propelling the band to popularity during the rock/metal heyday of the 1980s. Although it would undergo a number of lineup changes, Dio fronted the band through 2004, releasing ten studio albums in that time.

In 2006, Dio rejoined the members of Black Sabbath under the name Heaven & Hell. It started out as just a reunion tour with no other projects planned, but it soon grew beyond that. They released The Devil You Know in 2009 and toured to support it. Plans for further touring and a follow-up album were never realized due to Dio’s illness and eventual passing.

After Dio’s death, the Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund was created to support research in hopes of ending the disease. Now, a new album is slated to pay tribute to Dio’s life and legacy, with proceeds going to the Fund. Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life will be released on April 1. Among the acts to be included are Anthrax, Tenacious D (featuring actor Jack Black), Motorhead, the Scorpions, and Rob Halford of Judas Priest. The jewel of the album, though is the “Ronnie Rising Medley,” a nine-minute track combining the Rainbow songs “A Light in the Black,” “Tarot Woman,” “Stargazer,” and “Kill the King,” which will be performed by heavy metal superstars Metallica.

Ronnie James Dio may be gone, but he hasn’t been forgotten, as this all-star tribute clearly shows. In today’s music world, his voice is as important as it ever was. Share his work, and that of these other artists, with your rock-loving patrons. SmartBrowse Ronnie James Dio or any of these other bands on our website for albums not mentioned here, as well as concert films, soundtrack appearances, and much more.

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