Little giant of big rock: Ronnie James Dio’s memoirs are out



Little giant of big rock: Ronnie James Dio's memoirs are out

Eksmo publishing house has released an autobiography of one of the greatest rock singers – Ronnie James Dio. The book by the ex-vocalist of Rainbow, Black Sabbath, as well as the leader of his own project Dio will be of interest not only to fans of the heavy metal genre, but simply to lovers of good music.

If you set out to remember everyone who was introduced into the world of great music by Ritchie Blackmore, then you get a mini-rock encyclopedia. Many people owe this brilliant guitarist and main composer of Deep Purple’s “golden composition”. In the “worst” case, some of them have built solid careers in the music business, and in the best case, they have become rock stars of the first magnitude.

Let’s remember offhand. Vocalists such as David Coverdale, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner were little known until Blackmore turned his gaze to them and took them under his wing. As a result, the second and third of the above are still successfully performing both with solo albums and concerts, as well as in numerous side projects. And the first one completely broke the bank – the Whitesnake group founded by Coverdale in a purely commercial sense even surpassed the “dark purple” ones: their 35-year-old album, succinctly and timely called “1987”, received transatlantic popularity, becoming eight times platinum in terms of sales. . Such success Deep Purple never achieved, even at the peak of their fame.

Go ahead. Keyboardists Mickey Lee Soul, Tony Carey and Don Airey, who in different years were members of the Rainbow group led by Richie, also did not get lost in the musical horizon, and Airey is still a nominal member of DP to this day. Magnificent drummers, Cozy Powell (who unfortunately died tragically in 1998 in a car accident), Bobby Rondinelli and Chuck Burgi, who once had the happy opportunity to play with Blackmore in the same band, after parting with the “patron”, performed and recorded with musicians of the first magnitude: Their track record includes collaborations with such luminaries as Quiet Riot, Blue Öyster Cult, Scorpions, Axl Rudy Pell, Billy Joel, Meat Loaf, Michael Bolton, Doro Pesch and many others.

The charismatic Glenn Hughes, who eventually became one of the most ubiquitous rock artists of all time (this bass player/vocalist has worked with some unimaginable number of major league artists), is not worth talking about. It is simply useful to remember once again that Blackmore gave him a ticket to a great musical life.

But, undoubtedly, the main find of the “man in black” is Ronald James Padavona, known to the whole world as Ronnie James Dio – perhaps the best classical rock vocalist of all time (we will make a reservation: it is clear that Freddie Mercury is still the coolest, but he is a singer in in a broad sense of the word, far beyond the scope of traditional rock vocals, and Ronnie is a slightly different story) …

When Blackmore left Deep Purple at the end of 1974, he set about creating his own project, which would be in no way inferior to the “bright purple” ones. Happened. But, frankly, he would hardly have succeeded if he had not paid attention to the semi-professional Elf team, where the lead singer was the same Ronnie Dio. And it was Blackmore’s decision to put this man at the microphone stand, who would later become a small giant of big rock (in the literal sense, Dio’s height was 163 centimeters), played a decisive role both in the success of Rainbow, and in the fate of the vocalist himself…

Ronnie began writing his autobiography long before his untimely death in 2010. Being a talkative person and knowing the world of show business from various angles, he always wanted to tell the world his sparkling story. But he did not have time to complete it: oncology defeated a wonderful artist before he could finish the story. Therefore, the final touches to Ronnie’s memoirs were made by his wife Wendy, whom Dio simply adored to the last breath, and the famous rock journalist Mick Wall – perhaps the most respected living representative of this profession.

The result is a very detailed, witty and touching text. Plunging into it, the reader not only hears the voice of a man who sang unforgettable masterpieces known to every rock music lover (Man On The Silver Mountain, Catch The Rainbow, Stargazer, A Light In The Black, Gates Of Babylon, Kill The King), but also discovers the deep inner world of this well-read and versatile person. Dedicated to music one hundred percent.

On one of the pages of the book, the title of which Russian publishers quite wisely decided not to translate, leaving the original Rainbow In The Dark, we read: “Call me an old romantic, but I never sang for money. I am really always happy or just glad when I get paid for my work. But that’s not what motivates. Music has always helped to overcome difficult times when it seemed that everything was over; inspired me to write the best songs, motivated me to try to sing to the limit and be a true friend to the fans, and not just another picture in a magazine … ”

But Dio was not only an excellent vocalist. After listening to his performance, taken from one album Long Live Rock’n’Roll (1978), the assertive title track and the final record of the most delicate Rainbow Eyes, you can hardly believe that the microphone is the same person. He was a very sensitive and attentive guy – a quality, frankly, infrequent in the brutal world of rock. The singer’s widow, Wendy, testifies: “Ronnie enjoyed being around people. He could talk to anyone, whether you were eight years old or eighty. Irrelevant. He was a pleasant conversationalist, but he also knew how to listen. He knew how to win over a person, to help open up. He knew how to show a person that he really meant something to him. Ronnie treated the interlocutor with warmth. My husband had a real talent for this. This was no show; Ronnie really cared about those around him…”

Even making allowance for the fact that this is said by the person closest to the artist, and taking into account that the departed are either good or nothing, it still seems that this is not a banal desire to wishful thinking. Mr. Padavona really was one of those people who are hard to hold anything against. Of course, not without arrogance, a certain amount of narcissism and pride (well, where without them in show business?), But still, Ronnie James remained in people’s memory as a tactful and pleasant person …

In general, there have been plenty of autobiographies of musical celebrities lately (including on the Russian biblio market). And all of them can be divided into three conditional categories. Some authors, plunging into the jungle of their own memory, do not find a single kind word for anyone: they scream, are indignant, present, swear – such, for example, are the memories of The Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten. That is why reading them, frankly, is not very pleasant.

Others, focusing on their own person, try not to notice those around them. This sin, for all its objective merits, the book of The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards “Life”. But there are still others: while incendiary talking about their own adventures, they do not forget about those to whom they are grateful and owe their own success. In their narratives, you rarely come across bilious attacks and slippery indirect allusions. It is to the latter category that the memoirs of our hero can be attributed. Ronnie Dio talks about his years in the ranks of Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, as well as the project named after himself, Dio, in a measured, calm and respectful way. Agree, the credibility of such works by default is great …

Finally, let us recall a curious passage from the life of Ronnie James. Not everyone – even among the initiated and not indifferent – is aware that it was Dio who popularized the symbol of the image of heavy metal that later became canonical – the notorious “goat”, when the index finger and little finger are raised up, and the middle and ring fingers are bent and clamped by the thumb. But it was not he who came up with this gesture, but … his grandmother.

Here is how Ronnie recalls it: “I began to notice that when strangers approached us or passed too close, my grandmother would make a strange gesture with her hand. She raised her index finger and little finger, bending her middle and ring fingers, holding her thumb. It was not until years later that I learned that these were “devil’s horns”, also known as the “sign of the devil” (Italian: Mano Cornuto). This is how grandma protected herself from the evil eye…” Why did Ronnie one fine day think that this gesture would be ideal for visualizing heavy metal? Here’s why.

When, in the late 1970s, Dio was offered to replace the vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, who had completely gone off the coils, in Black Sabbath, the “rookie” puzzled for a long time over how he would not lose his face: after all, he would successfully take a place at the microphone stand after another person stood behind her for a decade – a task not easy. Some new visual “chip” was needed. It was then that Ronnie remembered his grandmother, or rather, about that sinister gesture with which she drove away evil spirits and frightened innocent passers-by.

The vocalist recalls: “Ozzy in Sabbath has always been associated with the Victoria sign (in the shape of a V). The raised hand, in the shape of a “maloik,” as my grandmother called it, while similar to Ozzy’s famous “peace” gesture, was different enough for others to see: there was a new sheriff in town. But will it work? There was only one way to check it – to go on stage with Sabbath … ”

History has proven that it worked – and how! The author sums up without false modesty: “For several years, the “goat” sign, so beloved by granny, has become a common occurrence at all metal concerts, a sign of a certain culture: brotherhood and rebellion, expressed by a beautiful skillful gesture. The next time you see this sign, remember me…” Of course, Ronnie.

Photo: Alexander Saverkin/TASS

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Little giant of big rock: Ronnie James Dio’s memoirs are out

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