In the wake of Ronnie James Dio’s passing, anyone with an e-mail address (for better or worse) has written about what the legendary singer meant as a musician, inspiration, and more often than not, friend. It’s not often that someone garners as much respect in the music industry as Dio did. However, according to David Marchese of Spin Magazine, the reason behind this wasn’t because he was a great songwriter, phenomenal vocalist, and a true gentleman, but because he was a short, ugly man who sang about dragons.
First off, the article is wrong from the first sentence. It claims that Dio passed away on Monday, when of course, it happened on Sunday. And it gets worse from there. Metal Injection, who brought the article to our attention, describes it as ‘smarmy,’ and that’s a pretty good summation. He essentially starts the article by saying “it’s easy enough for people who aren’t into metal fantasy to make fun of Dio,” and then proceeds to do just that. That’s kinda like saying “I’m not racist, and some of my friends are black,” at a party before telling Obama jokes.
Here’s the takeaway: Dio was praised as a savior for the unattractive, Dungeons & Dragons-playing social outcasts because “not everyone can relate to a Mick Jagger, a Joe Strummer, a Jack White. Those guys are canny. They’re good looking. They probably never had a tough time getting a girlfriend.” Because as we all know, if you’re a metalhead, you obviously aren’t attractive, can’t get a girlfriend, and are pretty much doomed to social rejection.
Marchese then states that Dio’s career slipped after Holy Diver. Really? a 27-year decline? The next two albums, the Last in Line and Sacred Heart, were as good as the first. And even subsequent albums had quality songs. And his reunion and tour with members of Black Sabbath in Heaven and Hell was a comeback in every sense of the word, even winning him a Golden Gods award last month, his last public appearance. Dio died at the top of his game over 50 years into his career.
The most unfortunate thing about the article is that Marchese tries to have it both ways. After insulting both Dio and his fan base, he then talks about how great he was on Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, compliments the last tour, and mentions how we was exchanging e-mails with friends on Facebook last week about how great “Neon Knights” is. And then he caps the article off by stating that when at the top of his game, Dio sounded like “the most powerful wizard ever.”
It’s ok if you don’t like Dio. It’s not mandatory. But in addition to showing respect for the dead, it wouldn’t hurt to have a little more understanding about Ronnie James Dio behind the lyrics and his stage persona, as well as his fan base. Maybe Spin should have gotten alumnus Chuck Klosterman to write the obituary and let Marchese stick to awkwardly trying to interview Lou Reed. At least Klosterman comes from metal, even if he’s mostly moved on. And while he’s covered metal for Spin in the past, it seems from this article like the only thing Marchese truly understands is feeling like an outcast. While it would be hard to say that Marchese has a real bias against Dio, his obituary isn’t really helping to celebrate his legacy.