The great thing about Dio was simply his performance. He breathed conviction and always looked the part. One wonders what a man who spent half his life singing occultic peans to wizards, dragons and demons will do in the afterlife.
Metal’s elfin thespian of metaphysical evil, Ronnie James Dio, died of stomach cancer last month, age 67. Because he started at a very early age, Dio – who appeared in numerous metal documentaries and Jack Black’s ‘Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny’ – had racked up over 50 years flying time as a working singer and bass player. He was also the man who popularized the devil hand signal and ruled the airwaves in the mid-1980s with ‘Rock and Roll Children’.
Dio’s funeral at Forest Lawn was a rock’n’roll affair, with Geezer Butler as a pall bearer and so many fans that it broke all records for the cemetary. (Michael Jackson would have beaten that, but he had a secret interrment.) When Dio’s widow appeared, his fans chanted, “Wendy! Wendy! Wendy!” They can now get a memorial t-shirt on his website, the proceeds going to a cancer charity.
Fredrick Jameson famously said that culture can no longer be imagined outside the marketplace, and that seems apt in the Spinal Tap world of metal. The idea that a funeral is a show for fans and that the cemetary keeps a popularity count is indicative, not quite of the penetration of the marketplace (to my knowledge no tickets were sold), but at least of the commercial ideology of rock – that real life is part of the show, that audiences have to be measured, that popularity is the measure of success.