Goodbye Ronnie James Dio

This past weekend, we lost Ronnie James Dio, not only one of the best singers in hard rock and heavy metal, but someone who was polite, well spoken and gentlemanly, something of an anomaly in a genre where ‘bad boy’ behavior is embraced and expected of its frontmen. When someone of his stature of passes away, there is a collective void felt by millions of fans, creating a sense of unity. This feeling takes on an even more sad, surreal quality when it is someone that you were on a first name basis with.

Twice, I had the magnificent fortune of being on the same bill with Ronnie.  On both these tours, the differing schedules of his band, Black Sabbath in 1992 and Heaven & Hell in late 2008  (same band, different name) made our encounters infrequent, as is often the case with headliners and support acts. But whenever we did bump into each other, he always went out of his way to say hello.

His knack for remembering everybody’s names was nearly as legendary as his vocal ability. He remembered everyone on the crew, everyone’s friends, wives and girlfriends and made each person feel the center of attention when he spoke to them. So while we did ‘know’ each other, I don’t pretend to have known Ronnie well. It’s not as if we ever spoke by phone. Actually, that’s not true….

One day, I was trying to reach my friend Lorenzo, who was on Dio’s sound crew. This was the early 00’s and our tours were crossing paths in Cleveland. I’d been unable to make the Dio concert, but another friend of mine went to the show and bumped into Lorenzo, who told him to say hi to me and pass on his new phone number.

When I called a day or so later, the voice didn’t sound like Lorenzo’s.  “Alex Skolnick! How are you? I’ve always liked your guitar playing.” He asked what I was up to and how this person was and how that person was, asking me to please say hello to these people for him. This guy obviously knew me and others I knew, but I didn’t recognize his voice. Who could it be? I hesitantly asked.  He laughed and said “Alex, it’s Ronnie Dio!”

My jaw dropped. He explained that either he’d lost his cell phone and had been borrowing Lorenzo’s or vice versa (I forget), then nicely offered to pass on the message and have him call me, then we said goodbye. Whatever the situation was, I barely processed it and it scarcely mattered…I was on the phone with Dio!

I immediately thought of the Dio concert I attended in 1984 in San Francisco, the first concert I ever went to without adult supervision. I remember asking my father for permission. He didn’t understand who I was talking about. “Devo?” he asked.  A friend and I took BART (the metro train) to the concert which was held at the Cow Palace Arena. The Dio album “Holy Diver” had become part of the soundtrack for my high school years and those of countless other teens of the mid-80’s. Seeing him live, I felt for the first time like I was hearing music for my generation.

Although Dio’s draw would shrink somewhat in the ‘90’s (thanks in part to the music industry’s collective turn against 80’s hard rock acts)  Ronnie James Dio still stands as one of a small handful of vocalists in the hard rock/metal genre who was ever able to sell out arenas under his own name. The other two that come to mind are Ozzy Osbourne, whom he replaced in Black Sabbath, and Alice Cooper.

When he emerged on the national scene in the 70’s, he sang with enough rasp, grit, dirt and guttural quality to stand side by side with throaty greats of the time such as Bon Scott of AC/DC. But unlike Scott and others, whose sound was fueled by cigarettes, bourbon, and other, less legal substances, Ronnie took care of his voice with a discipline on par with an opera and Broadway singer. Never a ‘notorious rock star’ like his contemporaries, he lived his life in moderation, resulting in an unshakeable constancy and flawless execution that concertgoers could count on, right up until the end.

Indeed, at the ‘Metal Masters’ shows barely a year and a half ago, the universal consensus was that Ronnie, then in his mid 60’s, had never sounded better. On that tour, I frequently found myself standing on the grass with friends after our set, listening to Ronnie, Toni, Geezer and Vinne filling the star filled August sky with songs like “Heaven & Hell,” “Lost Children Of The Sea” and “Neon Knights.” It was about as perfect a Summer evening as one can imagine. Now Ronnie is a part of that star filled sky. He will forever be missed and remembered.

65 Responses to Goodbye Ronnie James Dio

    • Maybe the Baptist group didn't like his imagery or what the think he stood for. But hey, they guy passed away and meant a lot to millions. It would be 'Good Christian' behavior to forgive and let him be remembered respectfully. What about 'turning the other cheek?'

      By the way, this is my first 'thread' comment, let's see if this works. And in the future, I'll comment back when I can, but can't always do so, so please understand..

      • Is it the Westboro Baptist Church? That group makes my stomach turn. They will even go to the funeral of a Soldier and protest with signs blaming a Soldiers death on homosexuality and Aids??
        Hopefully cooler heads prevail in the face of these lunatics, but I don't know how they my fare out when faced by an onslaught on Metal-heads!
        On another note. Saw you open for Rodrigo y Gabriela with you trio t the Phoenix in Toronto. Awesome! I was at the Testament show last May 20 also in Toronto. Glad to see Testament got added to the Canadian Carnage show! See you on July 28! I got front row.

      • And the Baptists like all mankind are human and flawed. Sad, that their voice didn't reflect a Christian compassion, and instead of picketing disagreement, prayed for his loved ones and friends in their time of loss for God's comfort as they mourn. Man Proposes, God disposes.

  1. I probably saw the show or two after you saw DIO for the first time. I first saw DIO in Nov of 84' and was lucky enought to not only meet Ronnie James Dio but was fortunate enough to hang out with him for several hours. Just as Alex stated, the type of person Ronnie was rare enough, needless to say coming from a lead singer. He was one of the most gracious, humble and human – – beings that I've ever had the honor to meet.

    RIP RONNIE JAMES DIO

  2. When I heard about Dio, I was totally bummed. I've found myself watching and listening to the Heaven & Hell cd/dvd “Live at Radio City…” as well as their latest studio album a lot and just being in awe of Dio (and the band themselves) as it is apparent through watching that dvd you can see what everyone all over the internet has been saying about how wonderful Dio was as a musician and more importantly a person; very friendly and very professional in every sense of the word.

    On a lighter note, I dig the new look website. My only gripe, and I'm sure it's still in the tweaking mode, is that white text on a black background is really bad on the eyes. Other than that, the color scheme,logo, and layout look really clean and cool!

  3. First, congrats for your new site, in other oportunity when you ask our opinion, I talk more this. Now is moment to do a reflexion about “size” of things. And Dio was our “lil giant”, had “God” in artistic name, but humble as newcomer.

    Some years ago, I saw Dio Concert, and my friend was winner to visit Dio backstage, in some promotion, that I dont remember now … I was wait him (my friend) outside of bakstage. My friend make ONE pic with Dio and say to him that not was possible make more, because I was wait him out… James said : “Isn´t cool, never leave a woman alone in a metal show! “

  4. Hadn't heard about that Baptist group. Unbelievable but not surprising. Yes, Dio was really one of the few giants we had. He was an occasional target of critics that didn't get it. But his professionalism and personality outweighed that and the music will last longer than other more critic friendly, trend mongering rock. And he was not above poking fun at himself as seen in his appearances with Jack Black.

    • As smart, caring, and lovable as Ronnie was, I think most of us would know of him, and be deeply saddened at his passing, even if he had never sang a note. What you wrote about him was one of the best things I’ve seen written about the man. Insightful, and shared a glimpse of someone we all wish we’d known well. The more things I read from you, the more I like ya’. Thanks for sharin this, other experiences, and of course for making all the different music that we all love. To your health and happiness… \m/

  5. This was really sad when I found out. 🙁

    I'm certainly happy I decided to go to Metal Masters since it was sort of on a whim I got tickets… I'm truly happy that I got to see Dio in concert once.

    – M

  6. He will be missed by all. I was wondering if Ronnie ever heard or commented on your cover of Dont Talk to Strangers? I had the pleasure of seeing Dio in 84,85,86 and 88 also with Sabbath in 92.

  7. Great post, Alex! Your words about Dio being a part of the sky now somehow brought home the loss on another, deeper level. I think it's good to feel that, even though it sucks.

    I'll never forget what Dio means to metal, and how he defines the value of restraint and class both within his actual music and in the world at large. Dio reminds me how you don't have to be brutal to be heavy, and being metal means standing up for what you believe in, not trying to act a certain way to impress people. My deepest thanks go to RJD for being true to metal, true to himself, and true to those around him. I will never forget what he stood for.

    Thanks again for the amazing words, Alex. Hope to see you play again soon!

    • Very well said. It's true, so many lose site of the fact that metal is about just that, being true to ones self, not to others. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. I was so sad to hear about his passing….friends that I did not even know knew him were sad about it. He was truly a gentleman and I am very sorry for what his family must be going through! He was one of my favorites!

  9. Very cool story about Dio..Im sure it was an amazing feeling when you recieved a phone call from him..and knowing that he remembered you,and other people that you knew..really amazing!Too bad not all musicians today cant be like that..acknowledging fans and other fellow muscians,He seemed very humble,by the way described him..Like you Alex.;) Defintately a quality i will always admire about you,and few choice others..He will defintely be missed by the music world and many fans..and im sure you too…And by the way..I think these colors should stay too;)

  10. Just for clarification, the only colors that I was referring to were the white text on a black background for the blogs/comments. After awhile it hurts your eyes. Other than that I think the site looks great with the red/yellow/orange color scheme; it's gives off a much more lively vibe than the blue/green one that used to be on your site.

  11. Once again a great read.
    Here's what people had to say about your post on Blabbermouth (if you are interested): http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.n

    Hope the link works. And please keep in mind that normally the majority of comments made on blabbermouth are negative. As far as I can see there were no such remarks made about your post. Only good things were said.

    • I hadn't seen that yet. Blabber posters have a 'love-hate' relationship with me sometimes, but in this case, everyone seems to be on their best behavior. Some great comments there as well as here. Thanks for sharing,

      • To be honest I haven't heard much of Dio's music. So really don't have much reason to write anything good or bad about him.
        But when I saw him in A Headbanger's Journey it was obvious that this person was a genuinely nice person and not just posing for the camera. A class act as they say.

        The same thing can be said for you when dealing with fans. When I saw you play at the Metal Heart Festival in Norway I gave you a DVD with a Remember Shakti concert before the show (hope it worked). When the concert was over you went out of your way to make sure that I got your plectrum from the stage even though I was surrounded people much taller than me trying to catch it. It might seem like a small thing for some people, but to have a pleasant encounter with one of my favorite musicians is priceless.
        Much appreciated, sure hope I get to meet you again. Sorry to go off-topic. Thanks for reading!

    • Thanks for sharing that here. Once in a while there is BMouth post that gets mostly civil responses. Not often, but sometimes…

  12. A sweet genuine personally felt comment Alex as conveyed in the picture of you two also. Like a conductor that leads and sets his own style to pages of notes and pieces of music,, his voice lead complete and not lacking in quality. One that resonated with lasting effects whose uniqueness was beyond vocal but in caliber of character that hit marks in music and life performances that some should example and sand the edge of their imperfections to strive and be a shining star on earth and above. In the band of life, often tricky strums, a concern not just for our own songs but others and the advancement of the group should persevere in noble spirit deserving of such a gleaming tribute such as his.

  13. What are some of everyone's favorite Dio tunes/albums from any of the various projects he was associated with throughout the years? Some of my personal favorites would be “Stargazer”, “”Catch the Rainbow”, “Heaven & Hell”, and the version of “I” from the Radio City live album.

    • Mine are 'Gates Of Babylon' from Rainbow, 'Stand Up And Shout' from Dio and 'The Mob Rules' from Sabbath, which I first heard on the soundrack to 'Heavy Metal'

  14. R.I.P Mr ronnie Dio
    i always wanted to see one of his shows , last time sabbath wanted to go to turkey , and i managed to go there , but unfortunately i heard about Dio that he passed away 🙁 that day my heart almost broke………. that i wont see him again.
    and for Mr alex i really liked your post your words and they way you described Dio 🙂
    such a great honor to me that i can write a comment on alex's post 😀

  15. I am a singer of 20 years and going myself.People ask me how I am able to hit the same notes as I have always done…. I say thats just what I do.I respect the art enough to set aside all the things that I may have had once in my mind on what I wanted,and found what I truly wanted and what I had to do to keep it.RJD was a inspiration to anyone that has wanted to just sing,and do it right. I will forever be grateful for what his voice and his music did for me.Thanks for posting this….

  16. i was lucky to see testament and heaven and hell on the metal masters tour and dio voice blow me away on how great it was at his age i will always remember that tour

    • Yes, at least he sounded great right up until the end. Not everyone can say that. Heck, Robert Plant, with all due respect (love what he's doing now w/Alison Kraus) wasn't sounding all that great on the Zeppelin stuff even during the 70's ie “Song Remains The Same”

  17. Here it is at 6:45 a.m. in Hazard, Ky…me and close friends listening to some holy diver , and sharing stories about our childhoods, growing up and listening to great metal bands such as Testament and Dio. Both of the bands were soundtracks to my childhood(and yes i was listening to metal when i was 12 years old, 37 years old now!) Ronnie james will be missed, and i'm sure he thought greatly of you alex! You are one of my favorite guitarists of all time, and your post has us in awe at how well written it was, and showed how much Dio meant to you and all his fans. Alex, you are truly an class act! RIP Ronnie James Dio!

  18. Your respect and admiration of this great man shines through in your words. I liked his music a lot all though i knew little about him as a person.You have enlightened me and i will endevour to find out more about him.It is not often in this day and age that you hear one legend speak so fondly and respectfully of another.thankyou and regards.

  19. Thank you Alex
    Those were very heartfellt words on a glorious performer, I got to see Ronnie play 3 times out here in Australia.
    Cheers
    Bradley

  20. we lost a legend, yet it is heart warming to see someone like Alex being so open and honest about the greaf that i guess we all feel.
    great read alex, i think you captured the feeling of this situation very well.
    this is symbolic; the old masters will not be around forever.

  21. Very Nice Alex, it was a very sad day when i heard that Ronnie died. I can't remember exactly how many times i have seen RJD either as DIO or H&H (more than 10 though) but i can tell you always got the best show you would expect. Dio always gave 110%. One thing i really like to see and it really proves who RJD was and always will be to us, is the constant outpouring of what a loss to the Metal Community this is. From you Alex, Chuck Billy to Eddie Trunk Show last week, we got to hear from Hundreds of Musicians that had nothing but the best things to say about Ronnie, about who he was and how great of a person he was. One thing that stands out in every story is how he personally remembered everyone. Great to hear this. Lastly about the group that wants to petition the Memorial Service, they are really idiots because if they read or learned anything about Ronnie, that would be the last thing they would do. Whether or not he was a practicing Religious person, he was a GOOD PERSON and that in itself is what Christianity is about.

  22. Thanks Alex for your deeply genuine comment… what kind of beautiful human being R.J. Dio should have been.
    Now he's gone, but his voice and his legend will live forever, thanks to his songs and thanks to words like yours, Alex

    Greetings from Italy

  23. That makes me think back as well When I was in 8th grade I was in choir we had to do a video of our favorite band or musician I picked dio last in line It was really great to sing that song with lungs that hadnt been fried by all the weed and booze i would later discover to be very beneficial to the metal of today anyway there was no voice that inspired me as much as his. Im a guitar player and well I chose well cause His voice was unatainable and well still is. I miss you ronnie for the few times I was able to see you sing Im a better musician from hearing a blessed voice thanks alex for the blog. LONG LIVE ROCK AND ROLL R.I.P. RONNIE JAMES DIO

  24. What a great story ! Holy Diver was the sound track for my misspent youth there was nothing like throwing on Holy Diver, Heaven and Hell, Motely Crew to liven up a situation…….the music was raw and powerful yet tasteful with mastery of vocals and music….even though I never had the pleasure of seeing him in concert I will remember him and his music fondly it was part of some of the best times in my life and my kids now listen to his music which is awesome.

  25. My first memories of hearing Ronnie were with Rainbow. I remember hearing “Stargazer” and being so blown away by his singing. Later when he joined Black Sabbath on Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules his influence seemed to give the other members a new vitality. Seeing Heaven & Hell onstage when they came to NYC it seemed Geezer and Tony were genuinely happy onstage with Ronnie and Vinnie. I didn't get to see him as much as I would have liked, but I'm truly grateful for the times I did. I don't think I have the words to describe what an influence he is and was to me.

    Thanks for posting your memories and thoughts of him.

    Here is the url for a website with a lot of information on Ronnie's very early career- http://www.padavona.com ; there are some mp3's of his first band(s) in the late 50's early 60's up through to his time in Elf.

  26. Well said Alex….a friend and I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Ronnie after a show & you are so right…he was the nicest guy… he treated us like kings. It was surreal. His passing is a huge loss to all of music…a great tribute. Thanks and RIP RJD.

  27. WOW! That was really cool hearing your perspective Alex. I have'nt been able to attend as many metal concerts as I would like, maybe 30. But, the few that I have, I always felt a genuine appreciation from many of the acts. None, however, as much as a Dio concert. I never saw a more humble act and felt a genuine love for the audience as from Ronnie. I always felt that maybe I was reading into a bit much, but listening to all my fellow fans (both famous and not) I feel it's been well confirmed. I can't imagine how hard it must be for you guys to put on a good face for so much of your lives to your fans, not knowing if that will be your only meeting. I appreciate that you guys do! I got to meet you at a meet-and-greet in San Diego, and you guys looked SUPER tired. Yet, the photos I got were killer, and I appreciate the time you took for us.

  28. Hi Alex, I enjoyed reading your tribute to Ronnie, the man was truely magnificent as a singer and was just as magnificent as a person from everything that I have read about him. I would like to thanks to you Alex for giving the world such great music that, not unlike Ronnie James Dio, entertains and inspires many up and coming musicians along with people like myself who just try to make it through each day as it comes. Ronnie will always be remembered by his fans and respected by everyone. Thank you for this post.

  29. Hi Alex!
    After Ronnie's passing away, I keep on reading and reading nice stories about him, all of them, I haven't read a single bad story about him, he surely was a very nice guy! Sadly I wasn't able to see him live with Heaven And Hell (a.k.a. Black Sabbath), but his voice and his legacy carries on, so I'll keep on listening to those amazing records he did with Rainbow, Black Sabbath and obviously with his solo band 😉

    Thanks for opening this blog Alex, it's nice to see a musician like you sharing his thoughts with fans and other people interested in the matter. I saw you last year here in Mexico in the Mezcal Metal Fest (first row!), but it would be great to see you here in Mexico with the Alex Skolnick Trio 🙂

    Have a nice week.

  30. Thank you for this. It's a testament to the man that so many have such great memories of him. “Holy Diver” is still in my heavy rotation after all these years. I only got to see Dio live for the first (and last) time on the last night of the Metal Masters tour at Shoreline, and was impressed that Heaven and Hell were such an impressive standout among impressive standouts. And Dio impressed me most of all, not that such a big voice came out of such a surprisingly small frame but that between songs he was such a humble, gracious, generous, and articulate man. He was truly special.

  31. Its a sad time, I remember that same concert and being blown away.. as well with 20 or so + shows….
    At first thought Ronnie was going to be this Huge, mean type a guy with an even Bigger ego….. (must have been the Holy Diver Video….)
    But after meeting him at Shoreline ampitheater the first time they played there i thought….. Holy shit! all that comes out of him? He's not 6' tall nor a mean egotistical type (working for Bill Grahm you meet them all the time) and as for charactor and personality he couldnt have been more nice, a pleasant soul that spoke from the heart. I remember like it was yesterday, he somehow ended up right in front of me backstage and I went to move around him (intimidated!) and he took 30 seconds to stop, step right up to me, put his hand out and say, hi… and your name is?? he asked how I liked working there, if I was enjoying the sound….He just had this energy about him, he looked ya right in the eye and listend…. Im used to people like the psycadellic furs security guy that ripped me a new ass for looking at the band do a warm up set lol!

    RIP Ronnie,
    Thanks again alex for a cool tribute..

  32. Very well put! Although I never met Dio myself, I feel as if I did know him from the countless interviews I've seen of his and the many concerts I've attended. Dio, along with Rob Halford and Geoff Tate, had a voice that was both melodic and powerful at the same time. Very few singers can pull it off and even fewer (if any other than Dio) can pull it off at age 67. We've lost, in my opinion, the greatest Rock/Metal vocalist of all time. If anyone reading this has not caught the “Dedicated to Dio” special on VH1 Classic hosted by Eddie Trunk, be sure to catch one of the replays. I am extremely saddened by his passing but I'm sure that Dio's legend will live on forever.

  33. Hey Alex,
    That was a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Ronnie. I remember being excitied not only to see you and catch up with you when the Metal Masters tour played Mohegan Sun, but that I finally had the chance to see my all time favorite Sabbath song “Heaven and Hell” perfomed live – I had never had the opportunity to see Dio or Sabbath before 2008 (can you believe that?) but I knew that night was special. The minute I heard about Ronnie's passing, I thought of you because I knew your paths had crossed several times and I knew you had a lot of respect for him.
    Nicely done my friend!! I hope your travels are keeping you safe!!

  34. Hey Alex,
    That was a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Ronnie. I remember being excitied not only to see you and catch up with you when the Metal Masters tour played Mohegan Sun, but that I finally had the chance to see my all time favorite Sabbath song “Heaven and Hell” perfomed live – I had never had the opportunity to see Dio or Sabbath before 2008 (can you believe that?) but I knew that night was special. The minute I heard about Ronnie's passing, I thought of you because I knew your paths had crossed several times and I knew you had a lot of respect for him.
    Nicely done my friend!! I hope your travels are keeping you safe!!

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