RIP Ronnie James Dio: The metal legend gone at 67. Metallica and others pay tribute

Metal heads and dark rock connoisseurs everywhere are today without one of the most feared vocalists of the genre. Ronnie James Dio -- the prolific artist who fronted Black Sabbath (post-Ozzy), Rainbow, Heaven and Hell and, of course, Dio -- died Sunday from stomach cancer. He was 67.

Born Ronald James Padavona, Dio's advanced age hints at the influence of the musician (and VH1's highest authority) on all things metal -- particularly throughout the '80s and early '90s. Even if you didn't know who Dio was, you've probably paid homage to his evil ways. The token "devil horns" hand gesture synonymous with metal that you stupidly show off in photos with friends-- he freakin' created it.

Well, he didn't exactly forge the gesture from hellfire himself -- it was a curse his Italian grandmother would cast as a child, which he let slip at a concert a couple decades back. And it caught on like sin, much like his unapologetic love for metal.

With ominous odes to the dark ages, mythical creatures and more, Dio is regarded by his successors as a rock demigod, one who despite his short stature (he was just over five feet tall) had a major rock voice.

"Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us," said wife and long-time agent Wendy Dio. "Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever."

In fact, some of his most devious disciples -- members of Slipknot and Slayer, to name a few -- have already begun to pay tribute to Dio, whose musical career began as far back as the late 1950s.

But the most interesting tribute comes from Metallica drummer and the lambasted nancy-boy of metal, Lars Ulrich. On the band's website he wrote a letter to Dio.

"Ronnie, your voice impacted and empowered me, your music inspired and influenced me," Ulrich wrote. "And your kindness touched and moved me. Thank you." (See the entire missive below).

But a tribute to his prowess before his death, titled "Dio," perhaps best sums up his influence on the kids who would grow to darken the souls of yet the next generation of kids. That tribute, by Jack Black's Tenacious D, asks the question: Who can fill Dio's leather and steel shoes?

While alive, Dio said it's definitely not Tenacious D, though he enjoyed their music. Truth be told, there is really no one equipped to pick up where Dio left off. Regardless, here's a clip from Tenacious D's "Pick of Destiny," in which a young Black is molded by Dio for metal greatness.

And here's one of Dio's most popular songs, "Rainbow in the Dark."

Ulrich's letter:

Dear Ronnie,

I just got off stage in Zagreb. I was met with the news that you've passed on. I'm kind of in shock, but I wanted you to know that you were one of the main reasons I made it onto that stage to begin with. When I first saw you in Elf, opening for Deep Purple in 1975, I was completely blown away by the power in your voice, your presence on stage, your confidence, and the ease with which you seemed to connect to 6000 Danish people and one starry-eyed 11 year old, most of whom were not familiar with Elf's music. The following year, I was so psyched when I heard the results of you joining forces with my favorite guitar player. You guys sounded so right for each other and I instantly became Rainbow's #1 fan in Denmark. In the fall of 1976, when you played your first show in Copenhagen, I was literally in the front row and the couple of times we made eye contact you made me feel like the most important person in the world. The news that you guys were staying in town on your day off somehow embedded itself in my brain and I made the pilgrimage to the Plaza Hotel to see if I could somehow grab a picture, an autograph, a moment, anything. A few hours later you came out and were so kind and caring... pictures, autographs and a couple minutes of casual banter. I was on top of the world, inspired and ready for anything. Rainbow came to Copenhagen a couple more times over the next few years and each time you guys blew my mind, and for a good three years were my absolute favorite band on this planet. Over the years I've been fortunate enough to run into you a half dozen times or so and each time you were as kind, caring and gracious as you were in 1976 outside the hotel. When we finally got a chance to play together in Austria in 2007, even though I may not have let on, I was literally transformed back to that little snot nosed kid who you met and inspired 31 years earlier and it was such a fucking honor and a dream come true to share a stage with you and the rest of the legends in Heaven and Hell. A couple of weeks ago when I heard that you were not going to be able to make it to the Sonisphere shows that we would be sharing this June, I wanted to call you and let you know that I was thinking of you and wish you well, but I kind of pussied out, thinking the last thing you needed in your recovery was feeling obligated to take a phone call from a Danish drummer/fan boy. I wish I'd made that call. We will miss you immensely on the dates, and we will be thinking of you with great admiration and affection during that run. It seemed so right to have you out on tour with the so-called "Big Four" since you obviously were one of the main reasons that the four bands even exist. Your ears will definitely be burning during those two weeks because all of us will be talking, reminiscing and sharing stories about how knowing you has made our lives that much better.

Ronnie, your voice impacted and empowered me, your music inspired and influenced me, and your kindness touched and moved me. Thank you.

Much love,


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J. David McSwane
Contact: J. David McSwane