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A Quietus Tribute To Ronnie James Dio
Joel McIver , May 21st, 2010 07:13

Joel McIver remembers the late Black Sabbath, Dio, Rainbow, Heaven & Hell and Elf frontman

Unlike most fans of Ronnie James Dio, I first came into contact with his work not through Black Sabbath or Rainbow but via The Butterfly Ball, the 1974 Roger Glover-led project which produced an LP, a surreally illustrated book and a Royal Albert Hall show before running its course. I was given the album on its release in '74, when I was three years old, and was spellbound for pretty much the next decade by Ronnie's unearthly tenor on songs such as 'Sitting In A Dream'. Even when I discovered death metal a few years later I never lost my fascination with the Butterfly Ball songs, and three decades down the line I play them for my kids. The music is astounding to this day.

When I became a rock writer and started meeting a few of the musicians who had worked on that long-gone album (Roger Glover, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes among them), it was like ticking off a list of people on a road that led to Ronnie. I always retained the (in retrospect, ridiculous) image taken from the Butterfly Ball book of Ronnie as a frog fishing from a river bank, and when the time came in 2004 to finally interview him, I wondered if he'd laugh off my mention of the Ball as a mere side project, barely worth discussing in the context of the weightier works that he'd been involved in (Heaven And Hell, Holy Diver, the obvious big rock albums). However, he had some affectionate memories to share about those long-gone days: when I told him that it had been my very first album, he said approvingly, 'That's beautiful, kid', causing me to feel like a three-year-old again -- but in the best and most nostalgic way.

I saw Ronnie performing with Heaven And Hell in London in 2008, and like so many others I'd hoped to see the band again this summer, but it was not to be. I'm crushed by his relatively early death. All any of us have now are memories of the affable little fellow who lent his huge voice to all those amazing records: as the can't-be-arsed frog in 'Sitting In A Dream' sang, "Sitting in a landscape full of sighs / Dream away the day / Making up a tune about the blueness of the skies / This is where I'll stay". Somehow those lines seem appropriate. Rest in peace, RJD.

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