April 29, 1982.
The "Mob Rules" tour has rolled into Calgary, Alberta.
Black Sabbath is about to take the stage at the Stampede Corral with Ronnie James Dio replacing Ozzy Osbourne as the main man at the microphone.
Little did I know at the time how Dio was about to profoundly influence the future of heavy metal and its legion of fans with a trademark still very much in vogue today. While his Sabbath predecessor was known for flashing the peace sign during shows, it was Dio who introduced the "devil's horns". He would later explain he borrowed the idea from his Italian grandmother who used to make the hand gesture to give someone the "Malocchio" (the Evil Eye).
The diminutive 5'4" frontman enjoyed a music career that spanned six decades before his passing from stomach cancer on May 16, 2010. Dio enjoyed success as the lead singer for Rainbow in the mid-seventies before going on to front Sabbath in the early eighties as well as his own solo act.
Dio was also known for not taking himself or metal too seriously as evidenced by his association with Jack Black and a combo dubbed as "Tenacious D".
Tributes have been flowing in from all four corners of the heavy metal world, but perhaps the most touching is from his former Sabbath band mate, drummer Vinny Appice.
"Hey, Ron, I never thought the day would come so suddenly. Ronnie was everything to me. He was my best friend, he was my brother. I sat behind him on my drums each night and played, watching him sing, hearing his roaring voice through my monitors. Every night he sent chills down my spine with his singing, inspiring me to push it further and play the best I can to the limit. I always knew how lucky I was to be in a band with him, but to become friends was even more special.My heart is so broken. We are now in a world without him and I will miss him so much. I can only think of how fortunate I was to make music with him that was in his heart".
Somewhere up in heaven, Ronnie James Dio is belting out a song and flashing a sign that makes the Almighty himself do a double take. But, his only Son and the rest of the metal heads love it.
A public memorial service celebrating Dio's life and legacy takes place in Los Angeles on May 30th.
May he Rock in Peace.
"I've never taken vocal lessons. My early trumpet training and a fortunate talent for singing has always been enough for me. In the case of rock singing, I've always felt it was better to remain a bit untrained to maintain your individuality"
RONNIE JAMES DIO
P.S. ... Several months prior to his passing, a Houston TV station offered a revealing look at Dio's battle with cancer and how he and his wife Wendy faced it.
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