Ronnie James Dio (With Mick Wall an Wendy Dio)
Permuted Press (Hardcover)
By Howard Whitman
Ronnie James Dio was inarguably one of the premier vocalists of heavy metal’s golden age. First finding fame fronting Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, he found further success replacing Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, ultimately leading his own band, Dio, to the top of the charts.
When Dio died in 2010 at age 67, he left behind a substantial catalog of music — but no autobiography — that is, until now. He’d roughed out about half a book (through the Rainbow years) when he passed, so rock writer Mick Wall, along with Dio’s widow, Wendy, completed the book using interview material and Dio’s notes.
The end result is pretty seamless. Wendy chimes in, usefully, with her perspective on some of the events, but otherwise it’s a first-person narrative that takes Dio up to the peak of his success with his namesake band.
Along the way, Dio (born Ronald Padavona) recounts his journey from a trumpet-playing New York boy to bar band musician to his first label-signed band, Elf, which was poached (minus the guitarist) by the temperamental Blackmore for his post-Deep Purple project. After Rainbow fizzled out, Dio joined Sabbath for the classic Heaven and Hell LP (1980).
Dio’s career was filled with ups and downs (including a lot of bad luck with cars), and even though he was well-established when he left Sabbath to front his own group, he did so at great risk, mortgaging his home to finance the band. Time and time again, he bet on his talent, and his earthshaking voice never let him down. As the book indicates, Dio never lacked confidence about his abilities.
In the text Dio is very frank and honest at times, but strangely private in some ways. For example, he doesn’t go into much detail on choosing his stage name (Italian for “God”) — yet he details the development of his famous “devil’s horns” hand gesture (it’s from his grandmother and was meant to convey good luck rather than anything satanic).
My biggest issue with this book? It ends too soon, with the recounting of the Dio band’s 1986 debut at Madison Square Garden, a lifelong dream of his. There is more story to tell. Hopefully we’ll get a second volume of this legendary life.
— Howard Whitman