May 172010

I know next to squat about the recently deceased Ronnie James Dio. I know he replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, and I think I know he was really short. And I know he led a band called Dio. He seemed like a totally reasonable, level-headed guy in this recently conducted interview. I’m only slightly surprised, after learning in recent years that heavy metal icons can be regular blokes too.

It’s hard enough for any rocker to age. Rockers in some genres can turn to folkier, bluesier singer-songwriter material to grow dignified and old, but what’s an aging icon of metal to do? Robert Plant, not quite a heavy metal singer, but close enough for discussion, has classed up his act into his 60s by effectively going roots-rock. Has any other metal musician found a way to make music and present himself in a way more appropriate to his age? Is Ritchie Blackmore and his medieval lute-rock the next best attempt? Has Metallica effectively prepared for old age by crafting their middle-aged PowerPoint Rock Strategy?

Hear this audio tribute.

NEXT: Rock Town Hall’s Official Eulogy…


  10 Responses to “Aging Icons of Metal”

  1. In saw a heavy metal documentary whose name escapes me now and in it, RJD was credited with inventing that “devil horn” move based on watching his Italian grandmother give people “the meloiks.”

  2. hrrundivbakshi

    I like the fact that he chose not to wear a baseball cap, or bandanna, or whatever, to cover his balding heavy metal pate.

    The download links don’t work, but here are some choice pix of young Ronnie as he metamorphosed from 60s teen-punk rocker to 70s hippie slug and beyond.

    RIP, RJD!


  3. Wow, that’s too bad. One of my favorite records back in my headbanging days was Sabbath’s Heaven & Hell. I used to go see a band called DC Star who did a killer version of Neon Knights and H&H.

    Dio’s voice was so perfect for metal…one of the best, I submit.

    RIP little man.

  4. I’m not sure anyone has ever written better fantasy mythology metal lyrics than Dio, if one likes that sort of thing. He was a true elf. I think he’s a significant name in the history of metal singing, though he wasn’t ultimately as good as Plant or Halford or even Ozzy. Something about the quality of his voice, and his use of fantasy imagery, always made his music a little more remote and contained, and thus less hard-hitting. But his songs really did have a consistent world view, even as they relied on the most basic epic cliches: the dangerous journey, loneliness and the inevitability of death, and wicked witchy women.

    Heaven and Hell was his best record, I think. Second place to Rainbow Rising, with Rainbow, and third to his only other Sabbath record, Mob Rules.

  5. By the way, I still think Mr. Mod should check out some Metallica and see how they stand up WRT his yearning for heavy rock with intelligent lyrics.

  6. Mr. Moderator

    Oats, I’ll force myself to listen to some Metallica again, sorry. I thought I was supposed to listen to those Josh Homme bands. Whenever I hear Metallica I just laugh at the way Hetfield delivers things. He seems to be the musical equivalent of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.

  7. …oh Blackmore’s Knight! I worked at a New Age Music magazine in the late 1990’s and Candice Knight’s mom was their manager / publicist. She called me every day until we put them on the cover of our magazine. Ritchie would not talk about his past or anything “rock” and then wondered why they could not break through in the US (as if there were OTHER lute recording artists that were breaking through).

    Robert Plant’s record BEFORE raising sand may be my favorite of his “Mighty Re-arranger” so I was not happy that he changed his direction.

    Not that Bon Jovi was ever metal, but they moved to classic rock/ pop rock better than anyone I can think of. Aerosmith as well….

    Most of Metal is about being 17, and the fans want the band to act like it’s 1985, even if that requires hair plugs and flown in backing vocals (sorry DLR)

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Good points about Bon Jovi and Aerosmith moving into more mature ground, like it or leave it. I’ve always been a fan of how Joe Perry maintained his rockin’ locks but updated them for a classier, better-conditioned Look.

  9. Now will any ode, obituary or tribute mention Ronnie James Dio vocal contribution to one of the goofiest concept albums. Roger Glover’s The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast?

  10. BigSteve

    The state the obvious — Lemmy.

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