I certainly understand the apparent desire for many rock musicians to keep their terminal illnesses relatively private, but I have to say these premature deaths keep finding a way to sneak up on me. News of the latest rock and roll casualty, unfortunately, came over the wires today, as legendary heavy metal frontman Ronnie James Dio died May 16 after a fight against stomach cancer. Dio has been the consummate heavy metal lead singer for almost a half-century, especially achieving widespread success with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow during the '70s, the post-Ozzy Osbourne lineup of Black Sabbath for a few subsequent years, and then as frontman for his own band, aptly named Dio, for more than two decades. At 67, Dio had shown few signs of slowing down in recent years, which makes the news of his death perhaps more than a little surprising to anyone who had not heard of his illness, diagnosed late last fall.
As usual when mortality strikes the music world, I'll take this opportunity to pay tribute through song to hard rock's latest fallen hero, which is certainly appropriate enough. 1984's "The Last in Line" was one of Dio's signature tunes, part power ballad and part paint peeler, which also served as the title track to the band's sophomore album release. Even non-metal fans wouldn't dare question the vocal chops of Dio, and not just because they might have been slightly afraid he would smite them like the diminutive vessel of darkness he seemed to be. The guy was simply one of rock's most powerful singers of all time, and his massive voice and personality will both be sorely missed by music fans of many stripes.
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