Dio, Ronnie J.- Rainbow In The Dark (Book review)

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Ronnie James DioReviewed: August 2021
Released: 2021, Permuted Press
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: JP

RAINBOW IN THE DARK  is likely one of the most anticipated Heavy Metal themed autobiographies in several years.   That is not just because it is the life story of Dio but this book has been in the works and public knowledge for well over a decade.  Dio fans knew the book was almost ready to go when Dio passed over 10 years ago so this has been a long time coming. It was worth the wait.

Published by Permuted Pess RAINBOW IN THE DARK is  a decent looking 244 page hardcover.  There are alternate covers for the US and UK.   There are also any number of old photos of Dio fro when he was just a kid.  Wendy Dio finally felt the time was right to dust off the draft and make it a reality. In collaboration with Mick Wall they took all the notes and have completed the task.

There is a subtle difference between an autobiography and a memoir. This book really straddles the line.  A memoir is a snapshot, a point in time and the reality is this book ends on June 26, 1986.    (More on why that specific date later)  That leaves almost a quarter of a century (half his career) untouched.

In the Preface Wendy fends off the wolves early and fully explains why this book ends where it does.  She says, “This is a book that Ronnie saw as ‘The first half of my life’.”  (p. xi)   This was a wise move on her part because so many other Metal autobiographies are advertised as a ‘life story’ and then neglects most the authors career.  We are told up front the book only covers up to the day Dio headlines Madison Square Gardens, the legendary venue and long-time goal of his.  The date?   June 20, 1986.  She also said there is more than enough material for another book one day, so that is good news.

Many people, myself included didn’t realize how long Dio had been a working musician. As an 80’s Metalhead worshipping Dio solo albums we knew of his career in Sabbath and Rainbow. Some of the older more experienced Metalheads knew of Elf but no one I knew ever actually heard an Elf album or song.   Now go back yet another 10-15 years from the debut Elf album in 1972 (I was two years old) … that is how long Ronnie James Dio had been a music man.  1957 Dio started in the Vegas Kings and never looked back.

By the time we get to the stuff I really wanted to read about…Black Sabbath and his solo work, Dio was already a seasoned professional, a tour veteran and maybe even a bit jaded and calculated. A lot of that initial enthusiasm he had writing about his first bands (Rumblers, Red Caps, Prophets, Electric Elves and the aforementioned Vegas Kings) had faded away.  However that did not detract from the multiple fascinating stories of triumph, tragedy, poverty and rejection to massive accolades and works tours.

Dio spoke fondly of his early days and as evidenced by his lyrics he was a vivid storyteller.  The anecdote about him learning (barely) to drive and promptly crashing the stolen family car into the neighbours kitchen was very amusing.   The story of watching one of his best friends die next to him in a head-on car collision on the way home from a gig was not so amusing.  Wendy Dio would also contribute a few paragraphs here and there, providing an alternate perspective.

While this book was superb on many levels I had a sense of mild frustration as it ended so soon.  I guess I just wasn’t as interested in reading about him playing the trumpet in Ronnie And the Red Caps playing at summer resorts in the Catskills in the 50’s as I was to read about him touring with Yngwie in 1990 or working with Jack Black on the Tenacious D project.   The stories about Rainbow and Sabbath were way cool of course but old hat.  The story of Iommi vs. Dio and the ‘loudness wars’ in the studio during the mixing of LIVE EVIL (and many others) have been told and retold-told so many times they lose impact.

In retrospect I’m probably being a bit too critical of RAINBOW IN TNE DARK. It really is fantastic and I really enjoyed it and every Metal fan will too.   I can’t wait for the next book that covers 1986-2010, whatever form that may take.