Guitarist-singer Lzzy Hale is one of many artists who looked up to Ronnie James Dio for inspiration during her formative years as a musician. Now the leader of her own successful band, Hale and her group Halestorm paid the tribute to Dio on the 2014 CD This Is Your Life by covering the song “Straight Through the Heart.” Here, Hale wrote an exclusive tribute.
“Unlike most rock’n’roll frontwomen, the majority of my early influences were men. And the man at the top of that list was Ronnie James Dio. There was something magnetic about him. His voice flowed through him, from his soul to the tips of his fingers as he gave the world its first universal sign of rock: the horns.
My first introduction to Ronnie was his solo years, specifically the album Holy Diver, which features one of my favorite songs, “Straight Through the Heart.” My band, Halestorm, and I were honored to cover this song on the RJD tribute CD This Is Your Life.
The one thing that was even more impactful to me besides Ronnie’s amazing talent was his demeanor. He was by far the most amazing human I’ve ever met. He was connected and didn’t leave you with merely a friendly handshake. He would make you feel like you were the most important person he’d met all night, and to most of us, we left his presence feeling like we were a part of his family and that he was “Uncle Ronnie.”
We got to open up for Ronnie at the House of Blues in Atlantic City, N.J., on Aug. 28, 2009 while he was touring as Heaven & Hell. It was a one-time deal, and my teenage inner self was freaking out. During our set I looked up at the balcony side stage and saw Ronnie and Geezer Butler watching us perform. At the end of the night, after I watched Ronnie destroy live for the first time, he came over to hang with us, holding up their post-show meet-and-greet to say hello. As I stated before, he made us all feel so welcome, like we were already a part of his inner circle.
After his meet-and-greet, we talked more and then he walked with us out to the buses, where 30-50 of his fans were waiting for him. Ronnie turned to me and said he’d be right back. We watched him sign every CD and piece of paper and take every picture. He then still came back over to our vehicle to say goodbye! I expressed to him how nice of him it was for him to come back over to see us off and how inspiring it was to see him be so great to his fans even at 2 a.m. I added that after 40-plus years in the business, we all would understand if he just wanted to get on his bus and go to bed! Ronnie then turned to me, wagging a finger at my face, and said. ‘Lzzy, it’s a moment in time. You may never remember these venues you play or the names and faces of the people you meet, but they will remember that moment of meeting you for the rest of the their lives. So you gotta make it good for every single one of them!’ This statement is something I carry with me every day through my own journey and career.
Shortly after that show, we heard that Ronnie was diagnosed. His crew members would frequent our shows in the next months, giving us updates of Dio’s progress, and the news was always positive: He got to keep his hair, he’s in high spirits, etc. Then all of a sudden, he was gone.”
We found out later that the show we opened for him was his last. I still think that that fluke, one-off gig, and he and I meeting was no fluke or accident at all! It was meant to happen. I not only am the singer I am today thanks to Ronnie James Dio, but I am a better person thanks to meeting him. Rock’n’roll will never die because of the people he touched. Now, I imagine he’s teaching the angels how to sing and having a Bass Ale with the devil, and none of us should ever forget that Dio’s watching.”