Classics: Dio's Holy Diver (40 years)

by Zane Ewton

Author Ray Bradbury wrote of a time when he was a child who loved the Buck Rogers comic strip. He collected them religiously, at least until his peers made fun of his affinity for the space hero.

Bradbury, hoping to fit in, ripped up his collection. After a few days, he missed the comics. He missed the joy they brought him and he couldn't understand why he tore them up. He went right back to collecting Buck Rogers again.

"And then I made up my mind that I would never listen to another damn fool ever in my life," Bradbury wrote. "That was the day I learned that I was right and everybody else was wrong."

We've all had those moments. I hope you've had a moment like that. Belittled for what you love but courageous to keep on loving it anyway. There's a Buck Rogers in all of us.

Ronnie James Dio is my Buck Rogers.

As a pre-teen in the early 1990s I was discovering music. Mostly through MTV, which was a big deal and I loved it all. I also loved what I was finding in my cool uncle's music collection. This includes a record cover of a dark monster throwing a chained priest into the sea. Yes!

The music was loud and exciting. The singer's voice was theatrical and otherworldly. The songs made me feel 10 feet tall. I had to share this with friends.

And they were dismissive, made jokes and questioned how I could like this better than the Red Hot Chili Peppers. (It remains a childish idea that loving one thing means hating another).

I walked home in shame, feeling wrong for loving something my peers laughed at - a cruel sting for someone 11 years old.

What would Ray Bradbury do? Better yet, what would Ronnie James Dio do?

I have a point of pride in realizing it didn't matter what others think. I would love what I love and the Dio records would keep spinning for years to come.

Isn't that the beauty and power of Dio's music? To stand tall and empowered.

2023 marks the 40th anniversary of Holy Diver - a landmark record for Dio standing on his own without an already well known band, and the burgeoning early 1980s commercial success of heavy metal.

Holy Diver is a blueprint heavy metal record every step of the way with Dio's operatic vocals, the guitar fireworks of Vivian Campbell, Jimmy Bain on bass and your favorite drummer's drummer Vinny Appice. Much more than a solo record, the band gelled in the studio and cranked out an amazing sounding record with stellar songs.

There is no "best albums of heavy metal" list worth anything if it doesn't include Holy Diver near the top. Not a filler song on the record that includes some stone cold classics in "Stand Up and Shout," "Don't Talk to Strangers," "Rainbow in the Dark" and the title track.

Holy Diver launched Dio into the 1980s for a series of platinum records and over the top live shows. Ronnie James Dio killed a lot of dragons across the world's stages for several years.

He continued to craft killer songs into the '90s before reuniting with Black Sabbath for a minute, returning to his solo career up to the last Dio band record, the underrated Master of the Moon, before reconnecting with the Black Sabbath guys in 2007.

Now known as Heaven and Hell (based on the Dio-era classic), the band released the heavy The Devil You Know with Ronnie in fine form. This would prove to be his last record before dying of stomach cancer in 2010.

Ronnie James Dio has been celebrated prior to and after his death with tribute records, shout outs and more. His powerful voice remains a staple in rock and roll record collections.

And finally, there isn't a single Red Hot Chili Peppers album cover that holds a candle to the introduction of emblematic mascot Murray dropping a priest in the crashing waters.

There may have been a few more of us who loved Dio than the them who didn't.

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