Farewell, Ronnie James Dio!
As all know by now, Ronnie James Dio lost his fight with stomach cancer on Sunday, May 16, 2010. This loss obviously shook the mighty metal world to its very core. I am still not over it, and likely never will be. We have lost so many – Chuck Shuldiner, Dimebag Darrell, Cliff Burton, Paul Baloff, Eric Carr, Peter Steele, and many many more. Now this.
So many people have come forward to pay respects to the mighty Dio, and have been truly gracious in their words. Words like “legendary”, “sweet”, “caring”, “loving”, “giving”, and more have been staples in many tributes. But the one word that best describes him, and appears in pretty much everyone’s tribute is “humble”. This is how I knew him. Not to say that I knew him, as in close friends, but I did have the fortune and honor of meeting him twice. Those who have met him do truly count themselves as knowing him, in a manner of speaking.
The first time I met him was on the “Strange Highways” tour of 1994 at Mississippi Nights, in St. Louis, MO. After watching him deliver one of his trademarked monster sets, I ran around to the back where his tour bus was sitting, idling. He had already been shuffled onto the bus, straight from the stage. I waited out there with some 50 or so other fans, all of us hoping to catch the smallest glimpse of him. After about 30 minutes, the door to the bus opened, and Ronnie James Dio stepped out, with one hand outstretched, already having picked the first of many recipients of a handshake. I noticed one other thing – He was smiling. His demeanor was so sincere, like he truly wanted to be in that place, at that time. I shook his hand, and he signed my ticket stub. He talked to each one of us, and made time. He made tons of time. Ronnie sat on the steps of his tour bus until the early morning hours to make sure every one of those fans out back of the club that night were spoken to.
The second and final time I met him, I had taken my future stepson Ryan along. I had been turning him onto Dio through the vehicle of Heaven and Hell. Once he was hooked on H&H, he delved deeper into the Dio catalog, and the original Dio-era Sabbath stuff. When Heaven and Hell came to Phoenix last summer with Coheed And Cambria, it was important to me that we go. After the show, Ryan and I stepped to the back of the theater to wait. I was secretly hoping that the first time I met him was not a fluke, and that he would be gracious again. We waited for what seemed like forever. I had almost given up. I told Ryan at the time that if they did not come out in the next 20 minutes, we would have to leave. Almost as I was speaking that sentence, out walked Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi. they both went straight to the bus, turning and waving at the crowd. That was it from them. Very shortly behind those two came Vinnie Appice, followed by the man himself, Ronnie James Dio. Vinny came straight over to the fence where we were standing, and immediately started talking to the fans. Ronnie pretended to walk towards the bus and stopped as soon as he heard the people yelling for him. He turned around and looked at the crowd smiling wickedly, then turned back towards the bus. He took just a couple of steps, then turned around with the biggest “I’m just screwing with you guys” grin on his face and made his way to the fence. There, he spent the next 45 to 60 minutes hanging out, shaking hands, and just talking with what few fans stuck around. By the time he came out, there were only between 15 and 20 of us left. Ronnie posed for a pic with Ryan and I, and signed our stuff. He talked to everyone, and once all were taken care of, he hopped on the bus and they made their way off.
If you were ever fortunate enough to shake his hand, you would get a firm grip, and a man who looks you in the eye with a smile. Ronnie James Dio was so much more than your typical rock star. But, he embodied everything a rock star should be. Generous, gracious to his fans, self depricating, funny, and yeah…humble. Ronnie was a great, great man. And he didn’t know it. Let me put it this way: If he knew it, he never, EVER let it show.
To Ronnie James Dio: You have been an inspiration, pioneer, and godfather to ALL in this huge scene called Heavy Metal. You will be revered forever, and your legions of fans world wide will always love and respect you to the fullest. Rest In Eternal Peace, Legend. Horns High!
To Wendy Dio and the rest of the Dio family, bandmates and friends: My wish is for you all to be blessed in your time of loss. You know that Ronnie was adored by all, and I have yet to find anyone with a cross word to say about him. May God bless you and keep you, until you meet again.
Lael, Crucible Zine