Martin Popoff of Goldmine magazine recently conducted an interview with Wendy Dio, the wife/manager of legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
On Ronnie‘s writing style:
Wendy: “Ronnie had a very different way of writing. He didn’t want to write love songs; he wanted to write about people’s experiences, dreams, hopes, their hopes for the future. I thought they were great songs, and it’s something that can never be repeated again. They were just incredible songs — ‘Stargazer’, ‘Gates of Babylon’, ‘Catch the Rainbow’ — all such great songs. Ronnie read mostly science fiction and magical mystical books — read a book a day. And he always wrote his songs watching sports. He was very heavily influenced by the classics of Bach and Beethoven, and, of course, DEEP PURPLE, obviously LED ZEPPELIN, THE BEATLES, and in terms of new bands that were coming out at that time, probably AEROSMITH and later IRON MAIDEN.”
On Ronnie‘s split with RAINBOW and subsequent decision to join BLACK SABBATH:
“He was fired by Ritchie [Blackmore], because he didn’t write more commercial songs. We’d been living in Connecticut and we decided to come back to Los Angeles where we knew more people. I knew Sharon Arden at the time, before she was Osbourne, and we were talking on the phone, and she invited Ronnie up to meet the SABBATH guys. Her father, Don Arden, was managing at the time.”
On Ronnie‘s first stint with BLACK SABBATH:
“They were great friends. And they were always incredible musicians — legends. I was very good friends with Gloria Butler, Geezer Butler‘s wife, and those early days were a lot of fun. It was all new for us. For the first time in our lives, Ronnie and I had some money. We had no money in RAINBOW. But we had suddenly got money, and it was nice, and we bought our first house and we enjoyed the life.”
“Musically, Ronnie really enjoyed working with SABBATH, because now he could go darker, he could explore more. Him and Tony [Iommi] had a fantastic relationship writing-wise; and the rest of the band playing-wise. They were musical geniuses, all of them. ‘Heaven And Hell’ was written and recorded down in Miami at the BEE GEES‘ place, and that was a whole new experience for us. The songs, I thought were absolutely phenomenal. The band wasn’t sure about them until they came out, because they’re never really sure. When the band writes something, they’re never really sure (laughs) whereas people who are more on the outside can listen to them and go wow, that’s incredible. ‘Mob Rules’, the song, was originally written for the movie ‘Heavy Metal’; we’d gone to England, where the version for the ‘Heavy Metal’ movie was recorded in THE BEATLES‘ house. That was an incredible adventure and those were happy times. I think the third album, the live album, was not happy; by that time, there were a lot of problems going on.”
On Ronnie‘s solo career:
“The DIO band years was new for us, because Ronnie could do whatever he wanted now. Although it was quite frightening too, because that was a big responsibility for him. And in the beginning, although we had some money, we didn’t have a lot of money. We actually took a big huge mortgage out, a second mortgage out on our home, to start the tour off with (laughs), and to make sure that we could have the same things that we had enjoyed in SABBATH. It was a new and exciting time — the band was on fire. We didn’t expect ‘Holy Diver’ to jump out of the box the way it did, but it did, and it was incredible. It was an incredible ride.”
“As it went on into the ’90s, all the record companies, all the big labels dropped everybody. I was now managing the band of course, and I had to go out and find independents, which I was terrified of, but I went over to Europe and talked to a lot of different people, and found out that actually independents were better than the majors (laughs). You have much more control and you don’t sell your soul to them. So those are some of my experiences. But we had a lot of fun; my whole time, my whole journey with Ronnie was a beautiful experience.”
On Ronnie‘s long-rumored autobiography that the singer had been working on for years:
“Ronnie had written — was writing — a book, right up until a couple of days before he passed, an autobiography, and he finished about three-quarters of it. What he would do is handwrite everything and then he would send it over to me and my assistant would type it up. That’s how we worked. So we read chapter by chapter, until the last months, of course. And I had already gotten an agent for him. So they want me to finish it, and I will finish it, and it will come out in 2012. I haven’t actually gone back and read the last part, because it’s too soon for me to do that — the memories are too precious. But I will do it.”
Read the entire interview from Goldmine magazine.