The hard rock community was in a state of mourning as artists rushed to pay tribute to iconic elder statesman Ronnie James Dio, who died on Sunday at the age of 67 from stomach cancer.
Tony Iommi, who worked with Dio in Black Sabbath and its latest incarnation, Heaven and Hell, was among those weighing in, saying in a statement that since hearing the news, “I’ve been in total shock. I just can’t believe he’s gone. Ronnie was one of the nicest people you could ever meet, we had some fantastic times together. Ronnie loved what he did, making music and performing on stage. He loved his fans so much. He was a kind man and would put himself out to help others. I can honestly say it’s truly been an honor to play at his side for all these years. His music will live on forever. Our thoughts are with Wendy Dio who stood by Ronnie until the end. He loved her very much. The man with the magic voice is a star amongst stars, a true professional. I’ll miss you so much my dear friend. RIP.”
Heaven and Hell had planned to tour this summer to continue supporting its most recent album. Those dates were canceled, however, as Dio’s condition — which his wife and manager Wendy Dio revealed in November — worsened. Organizers of Britain’s Download festival plan to rename its second stage the Ronnie James Dio Stage in the singer’s memory.
At their show Sunday night at Lazerfest near Des Moines, Iowa, Alice Cooper and his band inserted a bit of Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” into their final song, “Under My Wheel,” dedicating it to Dio. Bassist Chuck Garric played with Dio prior to joining Cooper’s band, and both Cooper and Garric taped a special segment for the syndicated “Nights With Alice Cooper” radio program talking about their late friend.
“We used to have a lot of fun with Dio on the road,” Cooper recalled. “(Drummer) Eric Singer could not help from going ‘Holy Diver!’ as loud as he could to the point where the manager finally says, ‘Could you stop doing that? It’s starting to annoy Ronnie.’ And of course you don’t say that to Eric Singer, because that just means he’s going to double the efforts.”
Garric added that Dio was “such a genuinely nice guy and welcomed me with open arms. From the moment I walked into the rehearsal rooms to audition, I felt at home…It was one of the greatest moments of my life, and it had changed my life. I owe him everything.”
Over at Metallica.com, drummer Lars Ulrich posted a moving “A Letter to Ronnie,” crediting Dio as “one of the main reasons I made it into the stage to begin with,” saying that he first saw Dio as a member of the band Elf in 1975, opening for Deep Purple. “I was completely blown away by the power in your voice, your presence on stage, your confidence…” He also recalled going to the Plaza Hotel in Copenhagen when Dio came through with Blackmore’s Rainbow and being impressed that Dio was “so kind and caring…I was on top of the world, inspired and ready for anything.” Ulrich concluded that, “Ronnie, your voice impacted and empowered me, your music inspired and influenced me, and your kindness touched and moved me. Thank you.”
Chickenfoot’s Michael Anthony told Billboard.com that he used to cover “Man on the Silver Mountain with Van Halen and sharing the stage with Dio at some European festivals. “He was a great guy,” Anthony said. “I remember when we opened for them, all of us were back at the hotel having some drinks; it was his birthday, and I remember us all just hanging out, and he was just a great guy, definitely a driving force in hard rock music.”
Killswitch Engage, whose 2006 cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver” was the group’s first Top 20 hit on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart, called it “a very, very sad day in metal, and this one hits pretty hard. Dio was one of the greatest metal singers of all time. His soaring vocal lines even to this day, strike a chord in me that few other singers can come close to. Even in his old age, Dio rocked harder and more on point then 99% of the singers out there. He is truly a musician’s musician; a model for the new school to aspire towards. A man who stuck to his guns, and played the type of music HE wanted to play…and extremely well at that!”
Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour called Dio “one of the strongest, purist and consistent singers of all time. Ronnie sang like he lived — all out, from the heart, with so much honesty and joy. He was a great man with a smile and a handshake for fans and peers alike. He spoke his mind and stood his ground for decades. I will miss him dearly.”
Deftones’ Chino Moreno also told Billboard.com that he admired Dio’s longevity through groups such as Elf, Blackmore’s Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell and, of course, his own Dio. “I looked at his age and that put it in perspective for me,” Moreno said, “like, ‘Wow, I would love to be that old and still singing my heart out like that.”
Slayer guitarist Kerry King, who listened to “Man on the Silver Mountain” by Blackmore’s Rainbow as a teenager, said that being able to meet Dio was one of his treasured memories. “Few people have had the ability to carry a song like Dio, literally demanding your attention as he effortlessly recreated live the amazing things he did on record,” King said. “It’s odd how things get taken from you quickly…I just saw him a month ago. I know I was lucky to have known Ronnie. One of the nicest guys in the business without a doubt. He will be hugely missed.”
Anthrax’s Joe Belladonna said that Dio “was a big inspiration, influence and dear friend of mine. He was a true gentleman and a kindhearted individual. He always would go out of his way to make you feel welcome and important. Without a doubt, he was one of the best, top notch and a class act. I will truly miss him.” His bandmate, Charlie Benante, saluted Dio as “true metal and the creator of the metal hand Sign…He was Divine.”
Funeral and memorial arrangements have not yet been announced for Dio. His official web site still features the note his wife posted Sunday announcing his death.