In Wishing Ronnie James Dio a Speedy Recovery, Our Life as a "Holy Diver"

Metal legend Ronnie James Dio is one of those musicians you've probably always been aware of, even if you haven't counted yourself a huge fan. Rocks Off can sympathize, for while we've personally gone out of our way to seek his music, we've always taken it for granted that Dio would be there, hovering around the periphery of our musical existence like a diminutive barbarian who wields a sword twice his size.

If you were to compare him to similarly armed metal frontmen, he's like to Manowar's Eric Adams without the pecs, or Joe Elliott with worse hair.

But hard as it may be to believe, the man's 67 years old. So it came as not entirely surprising - yet sobering - news to find out last month that Dio has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. He canceled Heaven and Hell's European tour and is currently undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic, promising to be back once he "slays this dragon." Rocks Off wishes him the best as we reminisce about a life spent with RJD.


Black Sabbath, "The Mob Rules"

Dio replaced an alcoholic Ozzy Osborne in 1979, and while Tony Iommi had great things to say about the new collaboration, fans (and critics) weren't as forgiving. The collaboration lasted three years, though Dio and his three Sabbath bandmates would reunite in 2006 as the aforementioned Heaven and Hell, with the most lasting aspect of the collaboration probably being Dio's introduction of "devil horns" to the world of metal, and the title cut from 1981's Mob Rules.

Dio, "Holy Diver"

RJD's greatest popularity came in the 1980s, with Holy Diver and The Last in Line playing a big part in the rise of '80s metal. Rewatching thse videos some 25 years after my own coming of age as a D&D-playing proto-hesher, Rocks Off was immediately struck by how short the guy was, a fact easily concealed by his towering metal presence.

Tenacious D, "Dio"

We don't think Kage and Jabels meant any harm by asking Dio to "pass the torch" of metal. And neither did RJD himself, who politely declined their request. He's also collaborated with the duo since (appearing as himself in The Pick of Destiny), which we imagine is better than ramming that "Holy Diver" broadsword up their asses.

Hear 'n Aid, "Stars"

At the height of his formidable metal powers, Dio helped put together a supergroup to cut a benefit album for African famine relief. The resulting single was...interesting, yet easily better than "We Are the World." Watch the video and marvel at the juxtaposition of metal legends like Dio, Rob Halford and Dave Murray with...Matt Thorr and Jeff Pilson. On the plus side, Chris Holmes actually looks reasonably sober.

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey

A great movie, not just for giving Dio the opportunity to show how he's one of the most articulate people in metal (here explaining the origin of the devil horns), but also for the dig he gives Gene Simmons.

Get well soon, man. We have so many more dragons that need slaying.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar