Ronnie James Dio has left an indelible mark on many music fans, artists and musicians, and while it’s impossible to distill his large body of work down to only five songs, I wanted to list five of his best and most influential songs. Obviously Dio has been inspirational to me and that is why I dedicated the Gates, comic book soundtrack to the Ronnie James Dio Stand up and Shout Cancer Fund.
Track one off of Rainbow’s 1975 debut album. This song was the first introduction to Ronnie James Dio for most of the world. After his band Elf opened for Deep Purple, Richie Blackmore asked Ronnie James Dio to sing in Blackmore’s new band Rainbow.
The song kicks off with a riff that is somewhat reminiscent in style to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” but quickly moves into its own territory as soon as Dio starts to sing.
The song became a minor hit and a mainstay in both Rainbow’s and later Ronnie James Dio’s live setlist — and the world would forever know Ronnie James Dio.
4. Holy Diver
The title track from the first Dio album.
Dio first left Rainbow for Black Sabbath in 1979, and subsequently left Sabbath in 1982 to start his own band and released what was arguably his best work to date.
As great art often does, the meaning of the lyrics have inspired many debates and was probably designed to have multiple interpretations.
The album cover artwork cannot be overlooked either. It too has been the source of many debates over its meaning, as it seems to depict a devil-like figure either whipping or fighting with a priest. What can’t be argued is that the artwork is striking and gets your attention.
One of Dio’s most recognizable songs, “Rainbow in the Dark” reached #14 on the Billboard charts in 1983. This is of course also off of the debut Dio album.
While originally considered by Ronnie James Dio to have a sound that was too “pop,” it has since become a fan favorite with its undeniably catchy keyboard riff and vocal melody.
It is said to be about Ronnie James Dio’s feeling alone and rejected after leaving Black Sabbath. “You’ve been left on your own / Like a Rainbow in the Dark.”
After a successful start to his solo career with Holy Diver, Dio followed up with The Last In Line.
The title track from Dio’s sophomore solo album is one of his most popular songs and actually was the highest charting song of his career, hitting #10 on the Billboard charts in 1984.
Ronnie James Dio revisits a popular theme of his in this song, balancing light versus dark, good versus evil. “We’re a ship without a storm / The cold without the warm / Light inside the darkness that it needs.”
In addition, it featured another striking album cover, again using the same devil-like figure, this time presiding over what looks to be slaves.
1. Mob Rules
Title track from Black Sabbath’s sophomore album, and a song featured on the soundtrack to Heavy Metal magazine’s 1981 film.
After leaving Rainbow, Ronnie James Dio joined Black Sabbath, replacing their original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. This new line-up released the album Heaven and Hell in 1980 and followed it up with Mob Rules in 1981. Both albums were a critical and commercial success and breathed new life into Black Sabbath.
An alternate version of the title track was also included on the Heavy Metal movie soundtrack.
What are your favorite Ronnie James Dio songs?
Leave a comment and let us know what you think are Dio’s best songs.