Few "celebrity" deaths have hit me as viscerally as the loss of Ronnie James Dio yesterday morning. I usually find it difficult to feel grief for someone I've never known personally -- those in the public eye have always just seemed too distant or abstract to relate to -- but this is different, more significant, more personal. On extremely rare occasions, an artist or performer's body of work is so vast and powerful, so tailor-made to my own system of beliefs, that I can't help but be taken aback a little by their loss. Such was the case with Hunter S. Thompson five years ago and even Patrick Swayze last year. But Dio's passing has struck me the hardest of all.
I wouldn't say I'm "depressed" (or even "sad") per se, which might sound strange, but let me explain: As cliche as it might sound, I truly believe that one's death is a time to celebrate their life. To focus not on the ending but on the story itself -- especially in the case of someone like Ronnie James Dio. The man lived a long, full life, and touched the hearts of millions. It's a tragic thing that he's gone, but we all die -- I say we toast to a life so vibrantly lived, rather than lamenting it's end. And if reflecting on the benevolent aura (still very much present) that Dio left in the wake of his existence isn't enough to lift your spirits, ask yourself one thing: WHAT WOULD DIO DO?
I'm not kidding. Feeling down? Defeated? If RJD was here right now, what would he say? He'd tell you to pick yourself up, stand tall, slay the dragon, save the maiden! Dio's legacy is one of pride, honor, of epic and unending faith in one's self. Does a warrior weep at the graveside of a fallen comrade? Hold your sword aloft and let the world hear your battle cry! WE CAN NEVER DIE!
I'm not trying to tell anyone how to deal with their grief. Everyone needs to do that their own way. This is just my way of honoring the fallen. I don't subscribe to any one religion -- in fact I believe that religion as a whole is just man's own feeble attempt at grappling with the complete and utter hopelessness of death. There is absolutely no way to understand the journey of dying, but whether the end destination is oblivion or transcendence, I think we can all agree that Ronnie James Dio was a King while he lived. Godspeed.
Here are a couple of my favorite Dio performances, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and an invisible grapefruit to your hand even on the darkest of days:
(more on The Butterfly Ball)
This is probably my favorite Dio-sung jam of all time: RAINBOW, "RUN WITH THE WOLF"
(more on Dio, Satan, rainbows, and wizards)
The Little Man With The Big Voice also had a big heart. He put together the Hear 'N Aid charity hunger-relief all-star jam as a response to the metal-impaired "We Are The World" back in 1985, and also raised money for the ethical treatment of canines via the Brittany Foundation. A Bro among Bros:
(see Part 2 and Part 3 of the documentary in this post I wrote about Hear 'N Aid last year)
RONNIE JAMES DIO