Rock Reads: Rainbow in the Dark: The Autobiography - Ronnie James Dio with Mick Wall and Wendy Dio
by Kevin Wierzbicki
Dio was working on his autobiography at the time of his death and now more than a decade later and with help from his widow Wendy Dio and music journalist Mick Wall the book finally sees the light of day. Dio's style of writing is very conversational and fans will get a sense of closeness to the beloved heavy metal songwriter and vocalist as they read. The initial chapters of the book include anecdotes about how Ronnie's father insisted he learn to play trumpet and about how he came in later years to popularize the use of devil horns; the hand signs are actually an old Italian gesture meant to ward off the "evil eye" and Dio, born Ronald James Padavona, is indeed of Italian lineage. One of the funny stories that Ronnie relates in the early part of the book is how he got himself in hot water by choosing the stage name Dio as a teenager when he was gigging in local bands in and around his native Cortland, New York (near Syracuse and Ithaca.) Ronnie knew that Padavona wasn't going to fly and he thought Dio, the surname of a notorious mobster at the time, would sound tough. He also had occasion to claim that he was related to the mafioso; since the gangster was based a world away in Florida, who would ever question him on that? Turns out a visitor to the Cortland area actually knew the mobster's family and Ronnie went through a prolonged period of grief waiting for some type of imagined retribution that never came. All of Ronnie's early bands are covered, a series of outfits that would give Dio the experience he needed to eventually form the Elves, a group that would morph into Elf, the band that provided his first taste of success. Catching the ears of members of Deep Purple, Elf would be taken under the wing of that band and guided through the recording of several albums and also get their feet wet with international touring (with Purple) and trappings of fame. When Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple he hired Elf as his backup band and all of a sudden Dio, songwriting partner with Blackmore and singer for new band Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, had hit the big time. As time went on Blackmore dismissed all of the members of Elf except for Ronnie; surprisingly there was no animosity about this although Dio of course felt terrible about the firings. Dio's career path from there is pretty well-known. Toward the end of his days with Rainbow Ronnie married Wendy; she writes an account of that and also an account of how the two met and how she fell in love with Ronnie. Dio split from Rainbow in 1978 but soon he would join Black Sabbath, having the unenviable task of replacing the fired Ozzy Osbourne. Playing live with Sabbath was where Dio began flashing the devil horns hand gesture, known by various names like the Maloik and the Mano Cornuto (Horned Hand) in Italian folklore. This caused protests at some shows as some got the idea that Dio was a Satanist! When Dio was eventually let go from Sabbath is when the band Dio got started and the last part of the book charts that band's history. No matter what era the book touches on, the reading is fun and fast, filled with enlightenment and facts previously-unknown. Dio never comes off as the rock star; even while describing expected debauchery he is humble and thankful throughout. "Rainbow in the Dark: The Autobiography" should be considered a must-read for Dio fans and hard rock/metal fans in general.