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Tuesday January 23rd 2018

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In Memory of Ronnie James Dio

All Hail The Godfather of Metal!

As you all should know very well by now, international ambassador of Metal and vocalist extraordinaire Ronnie James Dio died last Sunday, aged 67, after a year-long battle with stomach cancer. It cannot be overstated how central Dio was to the development of Heavy Metal, from its fledgling days a half-century ago all the way up to the formidable movement we have now.  In terms of performance, he set the standard for frontpersons everywhere with a larger-than-life stage act belying his curt stature; his soaring, heroic tenor voice was always the most salient feature in every band he was in, and in that manner he was very much Metal’s Pavarotti (Italians seem to have a genetic inclination to killer windpipes). In terms of philosophy, he broke with Rock lyric conventions of pointless hedonism; instead, he inspired listeners’ imaginations with epic myth, or inspired critical thought with brilliant social commentary, and in that manner he was both Metal’s Homer and Metal’s Plato (as said before, you can’t overstate anything about the man!).

Though Dio was probably as cosmopolitan as Metal people go, it is of interest here to underscore that he was native to Northeastern America. He was born in New Hampshire but did not stay there for very long, and got started on his musical career in New York State. He participated in quite a few bands early on, but most notably the band Elf which opened for Deep Purple in the ’60s. When guitarist Ritchie Blackmore heard Dio’s voice, he soon dropped Deep Purple like a sack of potatoes and then infiltrated Elf, thus forming Rainbow– Dio’s first big breakthrough. And the rest, as they say, is history: Dio went on to grace three Black Sabbath albums (and, much later, the off-shoot outfit Heaven & Hell), form his own eponymous band, and make countless guest appearances on other albums and films for decades. But his most lasting non-musical contribution was the invention of the Metal “devil horns”, which is now a universal gesture of allegiance to the culture.

Dio’s memorial service will be held on May 30th  in Los Angeles (and unfortunately there’s a possibility that it will be stormed by a cult of Baptistsburn them all with fire!). If you can get there, these horns go out to you. If not, by all means organize your own sort of vigil for that day.

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