Monday, May 17, 2010

A Big Voice Silenced

The noted rock musician Ronnie James Dio died from stomach cancer at the age of 67 yesterday.

He had quite a musical career, spanning from singing in doo-wap bands in the late 1950s, through the folk music of the 1960s, and finding his groove in the hard/rock heavy metal of the 1970s and 1980s. He was still performing and touring right up until his diagnosis and decline in health late last year.

In his metal career as the front-man for the bands Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio, he was noted for his theatrical performances, operatic voice, and songs focusing on dark themes. How much of this was part of the show (as it was for Alice Cooper, who is, in fact, a rather straight-laced Reformed Christian and occasional Sunday school teacher) and how much reflected a genuine anti-Christian conviction is beyond what I know.

But the guy sure had a set of pipes.

Interestingly, Dio sang two songs on Seeds of Change, a wonderfully over-the-top prog-rock 1980 album by Kansas-member and songwriter Kerry Livgren (who had recently converted to Christianity, and who, like Alice Cooper, today teaches Bible classes at his church). Seeds of Change featured overtly Christian lyrics. Dio's two vocal offerings were sung as a favor to his friend Kerry Livgren, and were about our Lord Jesus Christ ("To Live For the King") and the devil ("The Mask of the Great Deceiver") respectively. The latter song features a two minute long synthesizer-laden dramatic introduction that just screams "Nineteen Eighty!"

If Ronnie James Dio died as a believer, the Big Voice will resonate throughout eternity. If not, his great gift has been tragically silenced. That isn't for us to know. But metal fans can still rejoice in the Lord's gift of soaring vocals and the kind of creativity that grew out of the last few decades of popular music.

Thanks to technology, you can still hear the Big Voice as an electronic echo. Here is "Rainbow in the Dark," and here is a live performance of "Man on the Silver Mountain" by an energetic 60-year old showman Ronnie James Dio.

Certainly he will be missed by his family and friends.

1 comment:

fooser77 said...

Wow! Didn't know you were a fan as well. This is your most striking comment:

"That isn't for us to know."

And, I certainly do agree...

ADDENDUM: That photo of me was taken in 2006. Hair is shorter of late, but I do still have and play that guitar...