Friday, May 22, 2015

Ronnie James Dio 5th Year Remembrance Weekend Celebrates Legend's Life

Story by Shawn Perry
Photos by Ronnie Lyon
On May 16, 2010, Ronnie James Dio passed away from stomach cancer. He was 67 and still rocking hard as the lead vocalist for Heaven & Hell, featuring guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Vinny Appice — the same lineup known as Black Sabbath in the early 80s. Since that time, Dio had risen to the top of the heap with his own band, becoming an elder statesman of the hard rock and heavy metal scene. He had also earned a reputation for being a friendly and approachable guy who mentored and befriended dozens of singers and musicians. It’s no wonder fans and friends from all around the planet still mourn his passing.
Celebrating Dio the legend and the man on the anniversary of his death has become an annual event. For the fifth anniversary, Wendy Dio, the singer’s wife and manager, pulled out all the stops and staged a “Remembrance Weekend”. Rather than mourn his death, it was a celebration of his life filled with fun and great music for both fans and friends. There was “Bowl For Ronnie” at the Pinz Bowling Center in Studio City on Friday; a memorial and musical celebration at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills where the singer was laid to rest in 2010 on Saturday; and a “Ride For Ronnie” followed by a barbecue and more music at Los Encinos Park in Encino on Sunday. All money raised — from food, drink, T-shirts, swag and a number of exclusive items auctioned off — went to the Ronnie James Dio Stand & Up Shout Cancer Fund.
“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of support,” Wendy Dio told me. “We’re celebrating Ronnie’s life and his legacy, and it’s for a good cause.” She and her late husband did a good amount of charity work, so it was a no-brainer when she and 14 friends set up the Ronnie James Dio Stand & Up Shout Cancer Fund, as a way to bringing awareness to the devastating disease that ended her husband’s life. “Our cancer fund is for prostrate cancer, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer,” she said.

Beyond the music, Wendy Dio described her husband as a regular guy when he wasn’t on the road or in the studio. “When he was home, we used to spend time at home, watching sports,” she recalled. “We’d go to an English pub and have a beer.” It's those kind of simple moments that Wendy remembers the most about Ronnie.
Everyone I spoke with has a place in their heart for Ronnie James Dio. Eddie Trunk from That Metal Show hosted the weekend’s events. Since Dio passed away, Trunk says he’s hosted a number of events for the Ronnie James Dio Stand & Up Shout Cancer Fund. “I’ve auctioned off tickets on That Metal Show,” he said. “I’ve done some benefits.” He pointed out that the Ronnie James Dio Stand & Up Shout Cancer Fund T-shirt he was wearing sold out after he wore it on That Metal Show.
Many of those who turned out for the weekend’s events were, of course, musical cohorts with special memories of Ronnie James Dio. Drummer Simon Wright, who played with Dio in the late 80s and then again from the late 90s until 2010, has nothing but good things to say about the singer. “I was lucky enough to be in his band for a quite a while,” he said. “It’s something I’m very proud of.”
Wright, along with other former Dio players like guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Rudy Sarzo, and keyboardist Scott Warren, played at the memorial and the barbecue as Dio Disciples. “I wish it wasn’t Dio Disciples, I wish it was Dio,” Wright remarked offhandedly. The drummer’s first encounter with Dio was at a Rainbow concert in the 1977. Years later, when he joined up with the singer, the Dios treated him like family, even letting him stay at their house after a divorce. “He was like a brother and a father to us. I’ll never forget him and I miss him.”
Singer Oni Logan, who's been making the rounds with Lynch Mob, also developed a friendship with Dio. “He was the main reason I came out from Florida,” Logan said, adding they met at a show and ended up chatting about singing into the night. “I told him I would love to come out to LA, but I don’t know anybody, and he said, 'You do now.'”
Logan sang the Rainbow classic “Stargazer” with Dio Disciples at the memorial. “We try to keep his music alive,” he said. “It’s great music — those songs he cultivated with Dio, Rainbow and Black Sabbath.”
Lisa Margaroli, who sings with Hollywood favorites Celebrity Trash and was helping out with the weekend’s events, is another one who cites Dio’s impact on her career. “He was such a huge influence on my life as a singer,” she said, adding that they met after a Heaven & Hell show at New York’s Madison Square Garden. “I told him I was moving to LA to become a rock star and he said, 'I’ll see you in Hollywood baby’ and he gave me a hug. It was an amazing moment for me.”
With over a million dollars raised for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up & Shout Cancer Fund, and more to come from this weekend’s festivities, it's obvious that Ronnie James Dio transcends his public persona as a singer, performer and songwriter. He was, by all accounts, a kind and giving man, inspired to help others achieve their dreams. His legacy lives on through his music, his friends, his family and a fund to save lives. Not a bad way to be remembered.

Saturday - May 16, 2015
Memorial

Sunday - May 17, 2015
Ride For Ronnie & BBQ