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Remembering Dio: 5 Bands, 5 Songs

22 May, 2010 Music

Without Ronnie James Dio, there would be no Spinal Tap. You wouldn’t be putting the devil horns up, and you surely wouldn’t think its cool to talk about dungeons and dragons. Dio’s four decades of entertaining us and inspiring generations of metalheads came to an end on May 16th. Many years before sharing the tale of a Holy Diver, Dio actually played bass and trumpet for a local band called the Vegas Kings. It’s here where his career began, and it’s here where I share my 5 favorite Dio tracks from 5 Dio-fronted outfits.


The Vegas Kings eventually changed their name. The group went through several name changes in the late ’60s (the Electric Elves, the Elves), before settling simply on Elf and issuing a self-titled debut album in 1972, produced by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover. The album went largely unnoticed, as did the group’s subsequent two other releases, L.A./59 and Trying to Burn the Sun. Through their affiliation with Glover, Elf was brought to the attention of former Purple leader/guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who invited the entire group (sans their guitarist) to join forces as the prog metal outfit Rainbow.


The brainchild of former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Rainbow quickly developed into one of the ’70s most successful heavy metal bands behind Dio’s goblin-like frontman stage presence. Rainbow put out a ton of classics, but in the end, Blackmore’s egotistic attitude forced Ronnie to leave. Shortly thereafter, Dio received word that Ozzy Osbourne had left Black Sabbath, and a tryout was arranged.

Black Sabbath

Dio got the Sabbath gig immediately (penning most of the Sab classic “Children of the Sea” at their initial jam session), and helped Sabbath break out of their creative and commercial slump, resulting in such metal classics as 1980′s Heaven and Hell and 1981′s Mob Rules. With Sabbath enjoying their greatest success in years, Dio shocked the metal world by leaving what appeared to be a promising union after the spotty Live Evil release appeared in 1982.


Fed up with the “singer for hire” tag that was bestowed upon him by many, Dio set out to form his very first solo project, called simply Dio. Similar in style to his previous bands but with a slightly more commercial edge, Dio’s first two solo albums, 1983′s Holy Diver and 1984′s Last in Line, racked up platinum sales — making the band an arena headliner in its own right. Dragon rock at its finest.

Heaven and Hell

In 2006 Dio reunited with his late-era Black Sabbath brethren Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice to form Heaven & Hell, named after Sabbath’s first recording with Dio in 1980. Heaven & Hell toured in 2007 and released the two-disc CD/DVD Live from Radio City Music Hall later that year, and the full-length studio recording Devil You Know arrived in 2009.

RIP \m/


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