Ronnie James Dio ‘Dreamers Never Die’ Documentary: Review +2023

Like the fantasy books it is often inspired by, the realm of heavy metal is filled with kings and queens, heroes and villains, outlaws and ghosts. Among them, few were bigger than Ronnie James Dio, who spent time with Rainbow and Black Sabbath before leading his own band under his own banner. One of rock’s greatest singers, he was both larger than life and down to earth, a journeyman musician whose career began before the Beatles, rose to fame in the heyday of hard rock in the 1970s, and never stopped making music until his death in 2010 make.

The new documentary Dio: Dreamers never die is an epic tale of hard work and survival told by those who knew and loved Dio. It follows his tortuous path, the victories and setbacks that finally led him to the throne room of metal. Directed by Don Argott and Demian Fenton, the creative team behind 2011’s Excellent Last days herehad a limited theatrical release this September and is currently streaming on Showtime.

Dio’s story begins in a small town in upstate New York. Born Ronnie James Padavona in 1948, he grew up in a close-knit Italian-American family. As befits someone whose first album featured a drowning priest, he grew up as an altar boy and good student before joining a gang and trying his hand at being a juvenile delinquent. His interest in music began early, first on the trumpet, teaching it the breathing techniques that would later give his voice its supreme power.

While future metal gods were learning guitar or still trapped in their parents’ loins, Dio smashed with vinyl in 1958 Ronnie & the Redcaps, who borrowed his stage name from gangster Johnny Dio. Over the next decade he struggled to find the perfect vehicle for his voice, with late ’60s proto-metal eventually providing the ideal setting. It’s predictable and unkind to discuss Dio’s diminutive stature, he was just 5ft 4in although he played with it from the start and called his ’60s band The Electric Elves, later Elf. When he stepped up to the microphone and opened his mouth, he appeared to be 10 feet tall.

After being produced by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover and Ian Paice, Elf supported the band for several years. When spirited guitar hero Ritchie Blackmore left Purple, he recruited Dio to lead his new band Rainbow. They would pioneer so-called “neoclassical metal”, with Dio drawing deeply on the sources of fantasy novels and sword and sorcery in his lyrics. “That was the band I always wanted to be in,” he says in an archive interview, but he would leave Rainbow once Blackmore started chasing pop success.

Luckily, a struggling metal monolith was looking for fresh blood. Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne in 1979’s Black Sabbath and gave them a second life on two classic 1980s albums heaven and hell and 1981s mob rules. Sabbath offered Dio fame and authority. Dio gave them majesty and class. Side note: there are some people who will tell you that the Dio-era records are “not real Sabbath albums”. These people are fools. Unfortunately, egos and substance abuse led to Dio’s departure in 1982.

In Sabbath, Dio popularized the devil’s horns, held his hands up in concert and created one of metal’s greatest signifiers. He borrowed it from his grandmother, who brought the custom back home with her and used it to ward off evil spirits. According to Dio, in his hands it has nothing to do with Satan or evil and simply means “Long live rock n’ roll”.

Dio appeared as the leader of his own band and went on to become one of the biggest acts during heavy metal’s boom years. Fellow musicians say that in Los Angeles his mind was always on the music, preferring rock ‘n’ roll to sex or drugs. He married his wife Wendy in 1978 and she later became his manager. She often serves as the film’s narrator, sharing her memories of the man she loved and the life they lived together.

As the metal 80s gave way to grunge 90s, Dio’s kingdom was threatened. He continued touring and releasing new music, but to fewer and fewer minions. However, Generation X nostalgia, guitar-playing video games, and CD reissues led to a resurgence in popularity over the following century. He even got back together with Sabbath in 2007 under the name Heaven and Hell. During the tour, he developed abdominal pain, which was later diagnosed as stomach cancer. He died in 2010, the depth of his loss illustrated by several people weeping as they discussed his depth.

for almost two hours, Dio: Dreamers never die can be a tough sell for anyone who doesn’t believe in the sacred beliefs of heavy metal rock n’ roll. Viewers, on the other hand, are rewarded with a detailed tome and storytelling. Small details such as B. “Craig Goldy, Freaky Guitarist Who Would Eventually Join Dio” and “Gene Hunter, Mysterious Guitarist We Couldn’t Find” demonstrate the filmmakers’ sense of humor and affection for their subject matter. Despite the grandiosity of his music, Dio endures because he spoke directly to fans, often verbatim, and showed that even the greatest rock gods were ordinary men and women, just like themselves. WARNING!

Benjamin H. Smith is a New York-based writer, producer and musician. Follow him on Twitter: @BHSmithNYC.

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