Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Memoriam Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio died on May 16th of stomach cancer.

I listened repeatedly to Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell during my late teens and early twenties. I have always considered Dio one of, if not the, greatest singers from the classic metal period of the 70s to the 80s. He had a powerful but clear and melodic voice. Dio, especially on that album but on his solo work as well, sang what a friend of mine called "Mystical warrior" metal. The subjects were often magical, e.g Lady Evil, or involving mystical warriors of some type, e.g. Neon Knights, but the themes were universal. Perhaps they were cliched, but they spoke to me of rebellion against authority and the value of thinking for oneself (e.g. Heaven and Hell, "Well if it seems to be real, it's illusion/For every moment of truth, there's confusion in life" and "They'll tell you black is really white/The moon is just a sun at night"), living life to the full (e.g. Die Young, "So live for today/Tomorrow never comes"), and being true to oneself. I think they also spoke to me indefinably of the alienation and loneliness of youth, of attempts to achieve greatness or the impossible or make the most of myself, in the face of an often uncaring or even hostile universe. But it was ok; we could find worth in the struggle itself. At the same time, the music just rocked and helped make all the trials of youth more bearable.

To some it might seem absurd that a rocker who sang "Die Young" (Final chorus: Die young, young! Die young, die young! Die young, die young, young! Die young, die young, die young, die young, die young!!) should live to 67. But when I think back on my own youth, and the part of it the music of Ronnie James Dio played, Dio will always be young to me. Die young, Ronnie, die young.

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