Ronald James Padavona: July 10, 1942 – May 16, 2010
“Man on the Silver Mountain,” Rainbow (Download)
For many of us, this song was our introduction to the voice of Ronnie James Dio. And what an introduction! “Man on the Silver Mountain” is one of the most powerful, heavy, and fucking awesome songs from the ‘70s. I dare say that without Dio’s pipes singing the hell out of this number, it could have been just another Deep Purple castaway, what with Ritchie Blackmore’s distinctive guitar and a riff that hearkens back to early ‘70s blues rock. From this song sprang a hundred imitators and a new genre was born. This song wasn’t just our introduction to the voice of Ronnie James Dio, it was our introduction to heavy metal.
~ Scott Malchus
“Computer God,” Black Sabbath (Download)
Dio returned to Sabbath in 1990, after nearly eight years away from the band, and not a moment too soon. Guitarist Tony Iommi had spent much of the period pimping the Sabbath name with a constantly revolving lineup of lesser players, including a veritable carousel of vocalists. Dio’s return (and that of bassist Geezer Butler and Mob Rules drummer Vinny Appice) immediately added muscle to the band’s sound and a steady hand in songwriting, which proved immediately apparent on 1992’s Dehumanizer.
The album opened with “Computer God,” a blast of pure metal goodness that told anyone listening that Sabbath had returned, glory intact, trailing a flock of winged demons in their wake. The track begins with Appice channeling John Bonham and Iommi waking to the realization that he was still a guitar god, both welcome harbingers, both waved aside by Dio’s most sinister, sneering vocal in ages. Elucidating all the ways technology can sap a people of its very humanness, Dio wraps his voice over some choice lines before he gets to the money verse at the end, the one that features evil, bleeding poison, superhuman mind, destroyer of mankind. Yeah, baby—Dio was back. Sabbath was open for business once again.
~ Rob Smith
“The Mob Rules,” Black Sabbath (Download)
I wasn’t a heavy metal guy in my teen years, hard rock was (and is) more my thing. I know it’s a fine distinction at times when listening to bands like Black Sabbath – who have such a great sense of groove. But when I heard “The Mob Rules” featured on the Heavy Metal soundtrack back in the day, I instantly loved the sense of power Ronnie James Dio exuded with his voice. The song certainly evokes anarchy and all the mayhem that goes with it, but there’s an underlying pop sensibility that makes it more than just a “fuck it all” song of dissonant noise. Dio’s vocals are both melodic and menacing – which is a tough balance to strike – and the groove that Sabbath lays down makes it impossible not to head bang into metal ecstasy. So a big thank you to Dio (and the boys in Sabbath) for broadening my rock horizons with a song that hasn’t lost its edge since 1981.
~ Ted Asregadoo
“Better in the Dark,” Dio (Download)
“Better in the Dark” was the centerpiece of the 2002 Dio album, Killing the Dragon. Every metal fan knows Holy Diver but all but true fans had jumped ship by this point in the band’s career. And that’s a shame because the riffs here are spectacular and “Better in the Dark” is a great example of Dio’s awesome voice. He may have looked like he was 150 years old, but his voice still sounded like it was vintage 1986.
“Rainbow in the Dark,” Dio (Download)
Don’t listen to the brittle, tinny keyboard line. Try to ignore the guitar line although it will be a tougher task to attempt. Focus on Ronnie James Dio’s impassioned delivery (was there any other kind from him?) as he sings the chorus: There’s no sign of the morning coming/ There’s no sight of the day/ You’ve been left on your own/ Like a Rainbow in the Dark.
The album took a lot of heat over the cover, a painting of a chained priest thrown into the water to drown as a demon lords above him in the blood red sunset sky. Essentially, it’s the usually suspected iconography for metal of the times, but ignore that also if you can. Just listen to the song on its own merits and understand why people are missing Dio at this particular moment.
~ Dw Dunphy
“Dio,” Tenacious D (Download)
To those viewing it from the outside, heavy metal must seem like the most humorless of all musical genres. Filled with angry men screaming about Heaven, Hell, voodoo, elves, sacred hearts, silver mountains, and rainbows in the dark…which, of course, is why so many of us take such great pleasure at mocking its pomposity. It is possible, however, to poke a bit of fun while still respecting the overall effect of the music, which is precisely what Jack Black and Kyle Gass, a.k.a. Tenacious D, did with their song “Dio.”
The D freely admitted to worshiping at the altar of Ronnie James, but with this song, they made their intentions clear: his day was done, and theirs had arrived.
Dio has rocked for a long, long time
Now it’s time for him to pass the torch
He has songs of wildebeests and angels
He has soared on the wings of a demon
It’s time to pass the torch
You’re too old to rock
No more rockin’ for you
We’re takin’ you to a home
But we will sing a song about you
And we will make sure that you’re very well taken care of
Dio, time to go
You must give your cape and scepter to me
And a smaller one for KG
You will be unsurprised to learn that many Dio fans didn’t find the D’s ode to their hero to be very fucking funny at all. But really, who cares? The only thing that matters is whether or not Dio himself got the joke…and he did. He promptly invited Black and Gass to appear at the beginning of his new video, “Push,” where they perform an acoustic adaptation of Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” on a street corner until he strolls up and offers to give them money if they’ll just play one of their own songs! Dio’s relationship with the group continued into their feature film, “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny,” where he stepped out of one of his own posters and provided young JB with the sort of guidance that only he could deliver with a straight face (“Now go, my son, and rock!”), and it’s arguable that, thanks to the D, a whole new generation of music fans were introduced to the man’s legacy.
Who’s laughing now?