How It Took Me 20 Years To Appreciate Ronnie James Dio


I had heard about Dio for years, and though I didn’t dislike him, I never even once thought about going out and getting a Dio album. There was too much else, and as with most all other music, if it gets pushed too hard on me (radio, friends, marketing) it usually turns me off.

Plus, look at this cover. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but back then I probably did. I mean seriously.


In 1983 when “Dio – Holy Diver” was released I was in a whole other place musically. I knew plenty of people who thought Dio was enormous. A rock God with no parallel. I had heard “Rainbow In The Dark” and “Holy Diver” and while I thought they were good, I was buying The Clash and listening to Bowie and Tom Petty and The Beatles. I wasn’t there yet. Later when I did hit my metal phase, I was into Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and Dio was no longer in the picture.

Again, no disrespect. If I heard “Rainbow In The Dark” and “Holy Diver” on the radio, I enjoyed it, maybe even turned it up, they played those 2 on the WIBA station that played classic rock when I worked at Marshall Erdman driving lift and playing portable radio on my ride. This is by the way why .38 Special is dead to me no matter how good “Hang On Loosely” is… but that’s another story.

That radio airplay was about all the Dio I knew for many years, then came a time when I worked for Office Max in the evenings.

Working there with me was a guy named Shawn. Shawn was a metal-head. Proud of it and seething under his tie and khaki pants was a love of all things dark and metal. I learned of White Zombie from him and he was a freak about Black Sabbath. In Shawn’s humble opinion the days when Ronnie James Dio fronted Black Sabbath were the ultimate. The early Ozzy albums were excellent, but the Dio led version was simply darkly sublime. Ronnie James Dio was a superior vocalist with just a tiny off kilter sound that made it even more sonically delicious. He could scream or sing soft passages with equal passion and there were no equals. He was constantly bringing up Dio in our conversations. I have to admit, it got me thinking about Dio and “Rainbow In The Dark” and “Holy Diver”, but, I never pursued it.

Shawn did turn me on to Prong and Manhole and Ministry though.

Hi Shawn wherever you are.

Fast forward to this past month. I heard “Rainbow In The Dark” on the radio when I tuned to WIBA when the other stations I listen to were on commercial and I cranked it and thought to myself, why haven’t I ever gotten this album? I should get this album. I had never heard or knew any other songs off of it, other than “Holy Diver”, but I took a chance.


It IS great!

I listened to the first 4 songs, all great. Then came song # 5: “Straight Through The Heart”. Boom. My mind blew. I knew this song! Not only did I know it, but I had spent years loving it, but not knowing who it was. I know that seems crazy since Dio has that distinctive voice, but somehow I never connected the two.

Back in the days of UW Milwaukee I made some tapes of songs from the radio. WMSE (Milwaukee School of Engineering) was college radio that I listened to when I lived in the dorms. There was a show on late called “The Monk of Punk” that played some pretty good stuff. It was really my first lengthy exposure to college radio and I loved the way they would play damn near anything, instead of the same thing over and over and over and… you get it. I compiled 2 tapes of songs from his show and several others and would listen to these constantly.

WMSE # 1

2013-01-13 10.27.03

WMSE # 2

2013-01-13 10.25.46

Sometimes they would announce the songs they played and sometimes not. Back then I didn’t have SoundHound on my phone to look them up and calling the station seemed like a lot of work. So “Straight Through The Heart” was a favorite of mine for many years, and it seems I have been a Dio fan from way back. I just didn’t know it.

So now I have “Holy Diver” and am loving it. I know it’s 80’s metal and there is some 80’s metal that I loved in the 80’s, but can’t stand now, but this has escaped the time machine and landed in the present for me.

Well done Ronnie!

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  1. It’s a shame that it took so long to enjoy the awesome rocking by the man with the giant balding head. All his albums are classic. I’ve got the vinyl which probably shows a little wear on the album cover because I played those albums so much. Good stuff dude

  2. “Hi Shaun wherever you are”

    Hi Mike! Glad to see you finally realized the brilliance of RJD. \m/

      1. It sure is… maybe the T. Covenant reference was too subtle…

        I’ll send you an email this evening after work and explain how I happened upon this post.

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