RIP Dio: Cleveland Metalheads Salute Singer



News of Ronnie James Dio’s death broke yesterday. Dio was one of the most respected talents and characters in heavy metal. His name is synonymous with the genre. His brief battle with stomach cancer prevented him from entering his sixth decade as a frontman. At the time of his death he was 67, and he’d been a recording artist for 52 years.

If you grew up around upstate New York in the ’60s, maybe you have an opinion about Dio. If you grew up in the ‘70s — or after — you definitely have an opinion about Dio. Classic-rock fans have jammed Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain” daily since 1975. If you were a heavy-metal fan in the ’80s, you know Dio’s material as Ozzy’s replacement in Black Sabbath, and you probably dig his solo material just as much. In the '90s, he continued the solo sets and briefly reunited with Sabbath.

If you could care less about classic rock or old-school metal, you probably know his work. In 2006, Hot Topic band Killswitch Engage covered his solo song “Holy Diver” and made it an inescapable hit single.

In 2007, Sabbath and Dio got together again, reconvening Sabbath as Heaven and Hell, and exclusively played Dio-era material, old and new. The once-again-rejuvenated band headlined acclaimed tours worldwide, touring with metal giants from different generations. No matter what size his crowds were, Dio never sucked.

Dio’s death rocked the metal world, and testimony is pouring in about what a great guy he was, onstage and off. We contacted some of Northeast Ohio’s biggest metal fans and performers for their thoughts on the late, great Ronnie James Dio. —D.X. Ferris

“Wow. Just a sad, sad day! Ronnie was just a great man and was the best singer out there. He has taught me so much in my craft on and off the stage, I really have a hard time talking about it. No one will ever pass the torch; he will have it forever! Love to Ronnie James Dio. R.I.P. I am also sadden for Wendy (Ronnie's Heart and soul) [and wife and manager] and all his friends around him. He meant so much to them, and this just has to be extremely hard on them, they have lost a dear, dear friend.” —Tim “Ripper” Owens

“DIO!!!” —Corey Bing, Fistula

“I'm not sure where to start in describing Ronnie James Dio, so I'll start from the beginning. My friends and I met him in 1983, on the Dio tour. We saw dozens of shows on that tour, and all the tours that would follow. Ronnie was not your typical Rock Star. He was one of the sweetest men you would ever want to meet! He had such an amazing voice and huge talent. We started out as fans and quickly became friends. He always took care of us and was very genuine, always asking how we were and how our moms were. (I'm sure that was to hear us say "fine", so he could reply with a "fine," making fun of our accents). He was one of the pioneers in fan-meeting. He made sure to meet fans after the shows outside by the buses, and stayed till he met each and every one. RJD was a little man with a big voice and the biggest heart to match — but not the ego that could have easily gone with all of that talent. He will be greatly missed.” —Karen Wonderly, longtime fan who knew Dio personally

“Ronnie James Dio was one of my personal all-time favorite singers. It's hard to imagine the music world without him as part of it. I thought he would always be here. To put things in proper perspective, Ronnie released a single before I was even born and continued to put out great music throughout my entire lifetime. First time I saw Ronnie live was in 1978 with Rainbow during the Long Live Rock 'N' Roll tour in Cleveland at the Richfield Coliseum. The last time I saw him was in 2009 with Heaven And Hell at Nautica. I saw him dozens and dozens of more times in-between. In fact, I do not think I ever missed one of Ronnie's performances here in Cleveland. Ronnie was the ultimate professional and one of the most consistent live singers I have ever seen or heard. He always delivered a first class performance. I met him many times over the years during my years working at Warner Bros. He was always a great person to work with and truly loved his fans. Ronnie was genuine nice guy. Whether a person was a speed, thrash, black or traditional metal fan, Ronnie’s music touched everyone at some point in their life. He will never be replaced.” —Bill Peters, head of Auburn Records and longtime host of WJCU 88.7 FM’s Metal on Metal

“I'm devastated. Ronnie James Dio was, for almost any fan of metal, a legend among legends. For me, with my time on The Metal Show and The Classic Metal Show, he was far more than that. Musically, there's no denying that the guy was simply invincible. When most people his age are settling into their big chairs and recanting their missed opportunities in life and waxing poetic about how they would change the world if they were in charge, Dio was still rockin' harder and better than guys 40 years his junior! Having seen him last summer at Nautica, he still delivered in a way that none other have — powerful, commanding, and with a passion that few can pull out, for songs that he's performed at least 10,000 times before. He was amazing. But Dio was far more. Simply, in a genre full of people that are just scumbags, he personified class. Two stories come to mind immediately about Dio, although I could easily tell 20 more! The first came when I wrote for Scene. I had torched his Angry Machines album in Scene. So, as fate would have it, I still was given the opportunity to interview Ronnie — my first ever superstar interview. The phone rings, and he's on the other end of it. “‘Is this Chris Akin?’ he says. “’Yes, Mr. Dio,’ I answered nervously. “’Well, then you are the guy that wrote this about my latest album, right?,’ he mused before reading me, word for word, every painful word I had written about how he had lost touch with his identity and his fans for Angry machines. I sat there squirming in my chair, waiting for the, ‘Fuck you!’ and the hangup. Instead though, Dio says to me at the end, ‘Is that really how you feel?’ I said that I didn't like the album at all. Now was the big moment. Instead of cursing me out and hanging up, he says, ‘Well, I'm sorry you feel that way as a fan, but as a fan I hope you'll let me explain to you what I was going for with this record’ From there, we chatted for nearly 90 minutes about everything and anything, and he was beyond cordial. Never once was he upset or short because I had written a bad review of one of his records. To the contrary, he was the lone star I ever encountered who truly seemed like he cared — not only that I didn't like it, but that as a fan I didn't understand what he was trying to say. Class, man! One last story. Maiden/Dio/Monster Magnet show at Nautica around the same time (might even have been the same album run). After Dio performed, Wendy had invited me backstage to meet Ronnie and take pictures and whatnot. After his performance, I go back stage and meet up with Wendy and Ronnie, who are simply two of the nicest people you will ever meet. After talking for 10-15 minutes, Dio says to me, ‘Would you like to meet someone?’ Thinking it would be members of his band or something, I said, ‘Sure.’ He leads me back further behind the stage to a small picnic table, and sitting there was Jimmy Page...yes, that Jimmy Page. I guess he was in town for a Page-Plant show the next night or something like that. In any event, I nervously did something I never do: got an autograph from Jimmy. When I turned around, Dio was standing there; arms crossed and smiling. He didn't say a word as I thanked him up and down. Looking back at it, that was probably the most rock n' roll royalty I've ever encountered in one place at one time. And it happened for no other reason than Dio was a class act to never be bettered. To wrap it up, I am extremely saddened by the passing of this legend. While I wouldn't call him a friend, I would call him the single most classy musician I've ever met. The powerful voice and the never-ending ability to rock better and hard than anyone else will be remembered by most, but for me, the word ‘class’ will always find it's way to my mind when I rock ‘Children Of The Sea’, ‘Holy Diver’ or ‘The Last In Line.’ Legendary people pass on...but their legend never truly dies. Thank you Ronnie James Dio for being a part of my life and making it better each and every time you were.” —Chris Akin, co-founder of the Classic Metal Show

“I'm devastated. The greatest singer ever is gone. My favorite singer is gone. The guy made sure to meet all the fans after every show through out his career. A guy who played rock and roll in the clubs for more than 50 years. I saw him destroy huge arenas and demolish small clubs with the same vigor. Amazing every time, struttin' around the stage like he was the King of Rock and Roll, jumping with excitement and screaming his heart out. I love all of his music from his early teen-doo wop-rock and roll of Ronnie and the Red Caps/Ronnie Dio & The Prophets, the garage rock of the Electric Elves/Elves, hard rock of Elf, Rainbow & Black Sabbath, to the heavy metal of Dio. He had the vocal power of Little Richard, energy of Jerry Lee Lewis and the self aggrandizing of Bo Diddley. The true distillation of Rock and Roll.” —Charles, owner of My Mind’s Eye record store and label

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