- - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

There was no singer like Ronnie James Dio. The diminutive rocker’s career spanned decades as lead singer for some of heavy metal’s most iconic bands including Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his namesake group, Dio.

If that wasn’t enough, he also invented the “heavy metal horns” hand symbol used by rock fans around the world. Sadly, in 2010, Dio lost his battle with stomach cancer, silencing that amazing voice forever at age 67.

To mark the fifth anniversary of his death, several of Dio’s famous friends got together for a full weekend of events that included a bowling tournament, graveside memorial, concert and biker ride — all to benefit the “Stand Up and Shout” cancer fund (DioCancerFund.org), a charity started by Dio’s widow, Wendy.

Several of the famous attendees — including funnymen Jack Black and Kyle Gass (also known as Tenacious D), Eddie Trunk from “That Metal Show,” rockers Lita Ford, Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot/Dio), Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) and Dio’s widow Wendy spoke to The Washington Times about the legacy of the man who was so much more than just heavy metal’s greatest singer.

Question: When did you first hear Dio’s voice?

Eddie Trunk: I was 15, and I won the “Heaven and Hell” Black Sabbath record on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. There was a booth where you put a quarter down on a number, and if the number came up, you could pick any album. I won [and] saw this album cover with angels smoking cigarettes. I didn’t know about Sabbath, but I thought, “Well that will piss my parents off.”

[I] got home, dropped the needle, and “Neon Nights” comes on. I heard this voice!

Tom Morello: It was the Black Sabbath “Heaven and Hell” record. I remember thinking, “There is no way in hell I am going to be able to enjoy a band called Black Sabbath with a singer other than Ozzy Osbourne.” Boy was I wrong.

Lita Ford:Ronnie was somebody I grew up on. I was a huge [Rainbow/Deep Purple guitarist] Ritchie Blackmore fan. Everything he did, I just buried myself in it. I go back to the early days. Once you heard Ronnie your life changed.

Q: What was he like as a person?

ET: He was an icon that became a good friend. Always so much fun to deal and work with. When he was ill, I called him and we talked. I was so down, and he raised my spirits, even with all he was battling. I miss him.

TM: He was a gentleman. He accepted praise with humility. He was my hard rock role model. He was a nice guy that loved heavy metal.

LF: He was like a big brother to me. I love him dearly. I know he’s not here, but he will always be here. Nobody will ever forget him.

Tracii Guns: He just came up to me and said, “Hey Tracii.” I was like, “What?! He knows my name.”

Rudy Sarzo: When we were on the road, we would all travel in the same bus. Dinnertime on our night off, we would stop somewhere and find an outdoor restaurant, and Ronnie would host the party.

Q: Wendy, did Ronnie leave instructions on how to maintain his memory?

Wendy Dio: No. Ronnie was such a humble, regular guy. When Ronnie died people started sending in donations, and we didn’t know what to do with the money. Then we decided, because I worked with a lot of charities — as Ronnie did — to do something. Not one penny of what we raise goes to administration. All the money goes to cancer research and education.

To date we have raised $1 million. We hope to raise $10 million.

Q: Jack and Kyle, you guys won a Grammy for covering Dio’s “Last in Line.” What do you think he would have said to that?

Jack Black: I think he would say, “What the [expletive]?! My version was 10 times better than theirs!” I hope he would have been pleased. Obviously, it’s a testament to his greatness. People love his music. We did our best. But it was only a shadow of the original genius.

Kyle Gass:Ronnie was the greatest. He was so generous. I think he would have been so pleased. That doesn’t mean that a lot of other heavy metal artists weren’t up in arms that we won. It was a tribute to Ronnie and his great music. I think he would have loved it.

Q: What do you think Ronnie would think of this memorial weekend?

ET: I think he’d get a good laugh about it. He had a great sense of humor. He would probably say, “Look at all these people carrying on. An excuse to drink.”

JB: It’s awesome, man. He was a great guy and a great presence, and everybody here shows that he was well loved as a person as well as an artist.

LF: He would have loved it. This event is done with class and respect. People come together with a lot of respect in their heart. Of course the benefit is just as important as our love for Ronnie.

WD: He would have been humbled. As I am. It’s just amazing so many people came out for this. Keeping his music and his legacy alive.



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