Goodbye Dio

The Set List

By Brian Washburn

An enormous part of the national metal community passed away a couple weeks ago. While many don’t know about the contributions that Ronnie James Dio made to the evolution of modern heavy metal, there are those out there who are mourning the passing of a metal legend.

Those who knew of Dio understood the impact and ripple effect this pint-sized man had on an entire music genre.

Though most know Dio as the frontman who replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath (it’s pretty bad when you party so hard a metal band kicks you out, but that’s Ozzy). However, even more than the latter works of Black Sabbath, Dio brought us some influential music with his band Rainbows, his solo band Dio — which also gave the world one of the top 10 greatest metal tracks ever in “Holy Diver” — and his latest project Heaven and Hell.

What Dio not only gave to the metal world but the entire music universe is a signal, a sign and a cultural revolution. Most music fanatics probably don’t realize the universal sign that was his brainchild was something he borrowed from his grandmother.

Ever been at a rock or metal concert and felt the urge when the band took a break in between songs to lift your hand in the air and put down your ring and middle finger in order to make the synonymous devil horns? I’m sure a majority of the music population has at least gotten this urge at a rock show, and this urge was made possible by Ronnie James Dio.

Though some believe it was popularized by KISS frontman Gene Simmons, Dio began putting his horns up in the air as a tribute to his grandmother who used to make the gesture to hold off the evil eye and other evil superstitions.

Dio’s music might not have been the most influential, popular or revolutionary, but he will forever have an impact on the history of metal and the formation of the modern metal scene.

The devil horns are as synonymous with the metal genre as fist pumps and crowd surfing is with rock, synchronizing hands are with hip-hop, line dancing and two-stepping are with country and dancing is with electronic, jam or rave music. Without Dio in the history book of metal putting the devil horns on the map, this somewhat underground, but popular genre might not have had a symbol that classified listeners and artists for generations.

Final thought: It is extremely disheartening to hear about the passing of Dio, however, his untimely death from stomach cancer has brought several questions to my mind. Although musicians are subject to health issues and death like the rest of us (except for, of course, Keith Richards) whose death will be bigger when it happens — Ozzy Osbourne, Angus Young or Gene Simmons?

Brian Washburn is the founder of DBW and is currently working on a way to revolutionize the music industry.

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