Born Ronaldo Giovanni Padavona, heavy metal music icon Ronnie James Dio (known for his operatic voice of thunder) passed away recently. Dio has performed with Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and his own solo project, Dio. With song titles such as “Gates of Babylon,” “Heaven & Hell,” “Holy Diver,” and “The Devil You Know” there is an inescapable religious quality to his persona. Sociologist Deena Weinstein (DePaul University) and Associate Professor of Religious Studies Anthea Butler (University of Pennsylvania) are big fans. Butler writes, “The imagery their album covers drew upon was more interesting than the mundane depictions of evil employed by the Church harkening back to a Hieronymus Bosch sensibility. Staring at the covers and listening to the throbbing music accompanying Dio’s operatic voice was like a metal Wagnerian opera.” Known for dark album imagery, medieval stage set (complete with “sword and sorcery” aesthetics) and his use of the “devil horns” hand gesture (often used at rock concerts) Dio has often been accused of satanic dabbling, though his statements more often come across as agnostic. Ironically, Dio provided vocals for born-again Christian Kerry Livgren (of Kansas fame) on “To Live for the King” and “Mask of the Great Deceiver.” He supported Children of the Night, a non-profit organization that rescues “America’s children from the ravages of street prostitution.” His widow is the Chairperson. Dio died of stomach cancer at the age of 67. Read more here, here, here, and here.
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