Reign In Hell, Ronnie James
A shout comes from the wizard, the sky begins to crack.
And he’s looking right at you!
Quick! Run along the rainbow before it turns to black…
Ronnie James Dio is the reason that I studied Latin in school.
The year 1985 saw the release of Sacred Heart. The album cover had Latin written in script around the central image (a dragon visible inside of a crystal ball):
FINIS PER SOMNIVM REPERIO TIBI SACRA COR VENEFICVS OSTIVM AVRVM
Rather than do something intelligent, like, oh, finding someone who knew Latin and could translate it for me, I decided to take it as my “elective language” (the other choices being French or Spanish, one of which might have been useful). So it came to pass that, once again, the Dark Spirit of Heavy Metal influenced my life.
Let this be my love letter to Ronnie James Dio.
Ronnie James Dio was one of the most important names in all of rock-n-roll. He was the Satanic Saint who injected evil into the heart of heavy metal.
He died this morning at the (alleged) age of 67 years, a victim of stomach cancer.
His career as a musician began in the late 1950s, with all that implies.
From Ronnie and the Prophets to Elf to Rainbow to Black Sabbath to his own band. His lyrics, album covers, and videos paved the landscape of heavy metal in the eighties, a legacy that followed forever after.
Is it a coincidence that he had such a prominent part in The Pick of Destiny? Jack Black understands: Dio is the man. So much so that his Brütal Legend was an exploration of one of Dio’s various Satanic album covers.
You run along the rainbow and never leave the ground
Still you don’t know why!
Whenever you dream, you’re holding the key
It opens the door to let you be free
And find the Sacred Heart.
Last August, I had the good fortune to see RJD tour with the other members of Black Sabbath under the moniker of Heaven and Hell. It was quite possibly the most powerful concert I’ve ever been to: everyone was in top form, and, for a man in his late 60s, Dio had it going on.
His energy infected the crowd to a level where I found myself hugging random strangers with joy simply because we were sharing the experience of Ronnie James Dio.
You see, Ronnie was always about the fans first and foremost. Never about the glam and glitz of the a rock star; always the concept of entertaining. He sang from the heart and we felt it.
His lyrics were cheesy as all hell. How many times can we go fighting dragons? How many wizards will there be? Evil Woman, Look Out!
The cliche didn’t matter to my twelve and fourteen year old selves. Every note, every word, every self-indulgent guitar solo: it was all awesome. Whenever Ronnie’s full-throated vocal chords strung a series of sounds, proclaiming the superiority of the sleeping souls of dark demigods? We understood. He spoke to our Dungeons & Dragons-playing, zit-faced, pubescent, virgin identities.
A soundtrack to the age of fourteen.
Even the logo for his fucking name was awesome. “Dio” is a bastardized word that means “god” or deity. But when you flipped it upside down, it said “DEVIL”. How fucking bad-ass? Knowing this secret, it was a thing. A mote of power in the life of an outcast teenage child.
I cannot say “Rest in Peace,” Ronnie James. You were not that man. You were a hunter of dragons through the blasted, apocalyptic wasteland of the Lower Planes.
Instead, a different sentiment:
Reign in Hell, Ronnie James.
I miss you, and I hope you are slaying dragons down there. You now know what is beyond the rainbow, what the wizard holds within his hands.
“Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” – Mark Twain