The fact that a singer could get someone like me, who hates the whole Dungeons & Dragons/Lord Of The Rings culture, so pumped up with lyrics like “Circles and rings, Dragons and kings, Weaving a shock and a spell...”
Sure, there were other Metal vocalists who had powerful voices, but they were either too shrill (Bruce Dickinson) or way too operatic (Rob Halford) for my taste. Dio’s voice had the power of an opera singer but with a style that you would find in soul & rockabilly singers. It’s no surprise to me that his first releases were soul singles as Ronnie Dio & The Prophets back in the early sixties.
Ronnie Dio & The Prophets- "Everybody's Got A Dance"
Dio’s music got me through some very long drives across the U.S. and Mexico. I played his solo albums and his albums with Black Sabbath (Heaven & Hell and Mob Rules) and Rainbow (Rising and Long Live Rock & Roll). Dio turned out to be the ultimate co-pilot; he never fell asleep, never let me down and occasionally yelled, "Look out!"
Dio was always the source of late night drunken arguments with my friends about who was better: Ozzy-Era Sabbath or Dio-Era Sabbath? Yes, Dio was a better singer. The band played better with him and Dio wrote his own lyrics (Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler wrote most the lyrics of the songs from the classic Ozzy-Era). Yet, it was always a losing battle for anyone on Dio's side. Why? Because HE'S freakin' Ozzy Osbourne! Everyone loves him, faults and all. That's why there was a television show called The Osbournes and not "The Dios!" Sorry, Ronnie.
Still, dude was five foot four and rocked out until he was 67 years old!
When Metal was on the downturn after the grunge years, Dio never quit performing. He performed in Asia, Latin America and parts of Europe that were still loyal to Metal, unlike the the fickle American audiences. When he did tour the states, he played in smaller venues until Metal made a comeback. Most metal acts quit performing during that time and only got back together when it was safe and nostalgic.
Jack Black made a whole career of imitating Ronnie James Dio singing and stage antics.
Dio introduced Metal and most of the world to the “devil horns.” He got the gesture from his Italian grandmother, who used what was called the "malocchio" to ward off evil spirits. He started doing it during his Sabbath years to distinguish himself from Ozzy Osbourne, who often raised his hand with the peace symbol.
I hate to play the same song over twice, but I have known to put “Stargazer” and “Neon Nights” on repeat.
Greg Burke, formerly of the L.A. Weekly and who now writes for his own website, Metaljazz.com, pretty much summed up what was so great about Ronnie James Dio in an article he wrote back in 1997:
Was Dio any more melodramatic than Mick Jagger or Johnny Rotten? He was an entertainer, but he fucking rocked! His lyrics went to the wall. And, possibly, musicianship wasn’t an automatic disqualification…Punk rock has debouched into the mainstream, getting ever more polluted in the process. Johnny Rotten’s rebellion has devolved into a self-acknowledged joke. But Ronnie James Dio is more radical than ever, and more sophisticated.
Long Live Rock & Roll, Long Live Ronnie James Dio!