Many of us were saddened to hear the news that Ronnie James Dio passed away yesterday morning (Sunday, May 16th) at age 67.

The former Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio singer was widely hailed as possessing one of metal’s most exceptional voices, as well as being one of the sweetest men in popular music. With his own band, Dio, he recorded one of the genre’s classics — the Holy Diver album.

While Ozzy Osbourne will forever be considered Sabbath’s number one singer, the Heaven and Hell album that the English band recorded with Dio – who was born a Yank in Portsmouth, New Hampshire -- revitalized their career and the record remains a fan favorite to this day. The reconstituted version of that era of Sabbath, now dubbed Heaven and Hell, played a much-praised show here just last August at Meadow Brook Music Theatre, following another show they did the summer before at DTE Music Theatre.

Detroit rockers Seduce opened that 2008 show for them, so we thought it might be noteworthy to ask guitarist David Black his reaction to the sad news, “When Dio sang about dragons and demons, he really believed in it,” said the Detroit rocker. “No one carried that stuff off like Ronnie. I met him briefly when Seduce played with Heaven and Hell, and he just seemed like the nicest guy. The first time I saw Ronnie James Dio live, it was with Rainbow when they were touring the Man On the Silver Mountain record. Even back then, the quality of his voice stood out. Ronnie was the real deal.”

Of course, the fantasy-inspired lyrics that Ronnie James Dio was best known for could never be taken too seriously. Still, Dio sang with such passion, such a tremendous amount of heart, that he made it easy to escape from reality and dive headfirst into a world of knights, dragons, princesses and winged horses every once in a while. No harm, no foul — the real world was always waiting when the album ended.

Sincerest condolences to Ronnie’s wife and long-time manager Wendy, his family, friends and everyone that knew him. We throw out the devil’s horns (he was the first one to ever use that hand sign, adapting it from his Italian background) in respectful tribute. He’ll be missed. —Brett Callwood

The late Mr. Dio and the gesture he invented.