Author: Curl, James
Title: Ronnie James Dio – A Biography of A Heavy Metal Icon
Date Published: 2018
Reviewed: Aug, 2018
There is an old saying, “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself”. James Curl seems to have taken that phrase to heart. Curl is an life-long American Dio fan and in his introduction to his new book RONNIE JAMES DIO, he says, after the passing of Dio, he got tired of waiting for someone to write a book about Dio so he did it himself. I’m glad he did!
RONNIE JAMES DIO-A BIOGRAPHY OF A HEAVY METAL ICON is a self-published affair that came out in the spring of 2018. It is a standard paperback that runs about 240 pages. The title is a little dull and the cover art is plain (just a photo of Dio) but it does the job. There is a nice foreword by Jeff Pilson, the aforementioned introduction, a comprehensive discography, credits, photos etc. The photos are actually pretty impressive. There are many black and white photos of a very young Ronnie from way back in his pre-Elf days! The book is well put together and easy to read.
Curl did quite a bit of research and conducted many interviews of people who were close to Dio, so it has a really air of authenticity and a sense of being ‘official’, due to the sources. Curl spoke with a range of people from family members, to musicians who worked with him even to Dio hairdresser of 20 years. A combination of all these interviews gives us a real sense of who Dio was, through the eyes of those around him. Not everyone agreed to participate but enough did to make this very comprehensive.
Naturally the book follows a simple chronological progression of his life broken into natural eras; a chapter on his early life, and one each on his early bands, then one on Elf, one on Rainbow, one on Black Sabbath etc. The bulk of the book, seven chapters worth follows Dio’s solo career and then concludes with the telling of the passing of the Metal God. I was very pleased that each album of Dio got almost equal treatment, although ANGRY MACHINES was really ignored…all the other books got good coverage, this one gets glossed over, perhaps understandably as many fans consider this to be a low point in his career. This is the only hole in an otherwise very thorough biography. The entire book is loaded with lots of great trivia, anecdotes (the bizarre gardening accident’) and stories that I had never heard before, like the time Dio personally stopped a guy from committing suicide! All great stuff for the true fans.
I was very pleased was that, despite being a huge fan, Curl remained pretty unbiased and let those who did not worship at the throne of Dio have some space in the book. For example, the legendary (for fans anyway) feud between Dio and Vivian Campbell is covered in great detail and a few others admit that Dio had as bit of a vicious side, a mean-streak and a foul temper at times. It was nice to read a balanced perspective instead of the unmitigated hero worship that has only increased in the years since his passing. By all accounts Dio was loved, a good man and that is reflected by almost everyone. Even Claude Schnell gave permission to reproduce the eulogy he gave at Dio funeral.
I’m mildly surprised there aren’t more books about Dio. Martin Popoff wrote one called DIO-LIGHT BEYOND THE BLACK back in 2006 and Dio has certainly been referenced in many books but to the best of my knowledge, this is only the second book about the golden-voiced singer. It is a fantastic work deserves to be in the library of any Dio fan.