40 Years Ago: Dio Starts Over as Band Leader on ‘Holy Diver’
By May 25, 1983, the man baptized Ronald James Padavona had already accumulated an incomparable musical CV including passages through numerous obscure ‘60s doo-wop groups, ‘70s blues-rockers Elf, castle-metal kings Rainbow and heavy-metal originators Black Sabbath.
Now, at the ripe age of 41, Ronnie James Dio was finally ready for his close-up with his debut, Holy Diver.
Just as soon as the singer’s quarrelsome departure from Sabbath became official, Ronnie was free at last to shape his own career path, confident in the knowledge that, after years of playing second fiddle to domineering guitar legends like Tony Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore, his own name commanded more than respect to stand up on its own and carry his new endeavor: named simply, Dio.
Taking everything he’d learned over the years about complex band politics and scouting for talented musicians from across the globe, Ronnie efficiently recruited seasoned Scottish-born bassist Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Wild Horses) and relative unknown Irish guitar prodigy Vivian Campbell (Sweet Savage) to join him and fellow American-bred, Sabbath exile Vinnie Appice to craft the celebrated songs that would comprise Holy Diver.
Listen to Dio's 'Holy Diver'
Whether exhorting fans directly via the adrenalin-charged head-banger "Stand Up and Shout," or speaking in riddles throughout much of the album’s timeless doom-laden title track, Dio proved themselves masters over the gamut of the heavy metal lexicon. That mastery was showcased repeatedly by chart-worthy commercial hard rockers ("Gypsy," "Caught in the Middle," "Straight Through the Heart") and darker, fantasy-infused album cuts ("Don’t Talk to Strangers," "Invisible," "Shame on the Night") alike.
Dio also scored their first genuine anthem via the irresistible synthesizer hook of "Rainbow in the Dark" – tying Ronnie’s peculiar, career-long fascination with “water droplets that reflect light in many colors” to his intended, youthful heavy metal audience’s universal feelings of loneliness and alienation.
The LP was heartily embraced by the specialized metal press and thousands of fans of Dio's prior exploits around the world, but Holy Diver was no commercial home run blast for Ronnie James Dio and his fledgling solo career. In America, Holy Diver stalled at No. 56 and traveled on a long road to gold certification 18 months later.
It took another five years before Holy Diver would finally be certified platinum in the U.S. Dio's career was itself in decline by then, but Ronnie James Dio's legacy was unquestionably secure as one of heavy metal’s greatest singers.
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