Monday, May 17, 2010

Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)

Yesterday the first great voice in American heavy metal died.

Ronnie James Dio died of stomach cancer at the age of 67. He was still touring with vigor and strength as of 6 months ago and planned to be touring this summer. His voice never failed him.

RJD had a powerful voice that often sounded better live than after produced in a studio. He was reasonably articulate and soft spoken, didn't resort to constant "F-bombs" on stage nor did he have a time of drug addiction like many in his genre and culture of music battled, especially during the 80's . Here's one of his classic performances of "Rainbow in the Dark" from 1983. The song probes hopelessness. I realize not everyone enjoys Heavy Metal like I do. That's OK.

After Michael Jackson's Live album came out I reflected on what we are to think regarding unbelievers who have been given a certain talent from God despite their apparent unbelief. I would apply these sentiments to Ronnie James Dio.

Simply put, God just gives select people something He doesn't give everyone else. I don't know what it would have been like to be in a private audience while Mozart played or Michelangelo painted, but Ronnie James Dio's metal vibrato is on par as far as I'm concerned. I know some will think regarding Dio's genre- "that doesn't take talent...he's screaming". I would only say to such a person- you're clueless! To say Dio was a rare talent seems too trite.

As a Christian I am always conflicted when I consider a figure like Ronnie James Dio. While I would not presume to know the content of his faith, his statements over the years pointed to a person who was confused about truth while openly and honestly probing questions of faith, doubt, fear, existence, and eternity. I could not discern any explicit fruit in what he said of a saving relationship with Christ though he and his wife were part of a significant mercy effort called "Children of the Night", dedicated to rescuing children from prostitution. Not too long ago Dio was interviewed by someone who asked him specific questions about life and religion. The whole interview is here. The interviewer asked Dio about his Roman Catholic upbringing, Christ and His claims, and the bible. Here's one response Dio gave that pretty much sums up what he believed-

"Well, if Thomas had not, at the end of the day, been able to put his fingers into the wound, he still wouldn't have believed. So where does that lead? The doubting Thomas is the quintessential point of what people do and don't believe about the Bible. We don't have the opportunity to go and stick our fingers into the hands of Christ. We don't have that luxury. He did. That had to be proven to him, and of course, that therefore is that whole part of the Bible, which we're supposed to blindly believe. You should not have to put your fingers in the wounds of Christ to believe that there was a Christ and that He died for all of our sins. Again, blind faith, if you believe in blind faith, and want to believe that everything is exactly what it is, then that's fine too. But me, I just can't take the Bible for exactly what it says, because I've just lived so much of life, and have learned that things are not always what they're written to be."

Dio spent quite a bit of time at MD Anderson in Houston receiving chemotherapy. I hope he came to believe in Christ through the witness of Christians there (there is a strong chaplaincy program at MD Anderson that shares Christ with many of the patients).

Nevertheless, the talent Dio possessed was not derived from himself or his DNA. Ronnie James Dio's ability was a gift from God. Misused talent? At times, for sure. Thus is the dilemma of human fallenness. Still, even in one who appears to be unregenerate and lost, the glorious creative imprint of God could be seen in lyrics and vocals he mustered.

As I have written before, I do not find it hard when viewing the unique talents and rare abilities of people like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Ronnie James Dio, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods, etc., to give praise to God, and really, God alone.


R W S said...

Very well written post. I was a huge Rainbow and Dio fan . Still dig out the music once in a while , just don't tell my Baptist friends. In all seriousness unlike some comments I have read from some whacked out Christians with so much venom and glee to pronounce that someone is in hell, you showed a very Christ like demeanor.
I had read that interview years ago and you could see how his scars form being raised in a religious system that did not present the true gospel of Christ , nor show that the Christian faith is not blind faith, marked him. I indeed pray as well that before he passed God led him to Christ . He was a great singer .

Reepicheep said...

Thanks RWS.

Bob Vigneault said...

Great post Pastor Tony.

The other day I heard Holy Diver covered by Kilswitch (pretty awesome btw) and I was imagining it as a slow ballad played on piano, kind of a Sarah Mclachlan version. Maybe she could get it ready for his funeral. Thoughts go out to Wendy and Ronnie's fans.

Jon Reid said...

Nice tribute, especially the reminder to recognize God-given talent in "ungodly" people. I'm not a metal-head (more of a prog-head) so I wrote my tribute about Dio's brush with Kansas founder Kerry Livgren. What a great set of pipes.

Woody Woodward said...

As you well know Pastor, I am not a fan of any form of “hard-rock” music. But you would be proud of me, I did listen to that song and this man did have passion and meaning to his music. His gravelly voice reminded me of a rock legend of my time, an extreme loner, most eccentric and very sad, Jim Morrison of the “Doors”.
There is only one thing more tragic than to know a friend is lost and no matter your witness, they refuse to repent, they live in hopeless state of existence and seem content to do so. But the one thing more tragic is, that same friend dying without Christ. I have pondered, “the second ____ breathed his last breath, as _____ passed from this life into eternal darkness, what was ____ first thought? What is Hell really like? How awful is it? His torment, his screams for mercy go unheard. And forever he will scream and forever the futile cries go without heed!” That is HELL and whatever else it is, I humbly bow to my Savior for saving me!

Adam said...

Good post, and good truth. Have you seen this revision on "Holy Diver" by a more recent metal band? It's a tribute to DIO; by some very talented musicians as well. Hope you enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

So it sounds like Ronnie was possibly held back by blind faith because of all the interpretations of the Bible and dual, triple or endless meaniings of a single word found in the Bible. I do as much intercessory prayer for people who were loved and lost to illness or injury, even naturally caused fatalities. This includes Ronnie because he was so talented, truly a nice person too. And, of course, for the Almighty who is truly Loveable for the selfless lover of mankind that he is still.