Ronnie James Dio’s Life and Music Celebrated at Los Angeles Memorial Service
There are different types of memorial services, but rarely do you see one that rocks as hard and touches as many people as what went down Saturday (May 16) in Los Angeles. On the fifth anniversary of the death of Ronnie James Dio, Ronnie's widow Wendy and her staff at the Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund decided to mark the occasion by allowing the public to join in the remembrance of Ronnie at Los Angeles' beautiful Forest Lawn cemetery.
Upon entering the auditorium, there was a mini museum featuring many items of personal tributes, both from fans and from fellow musicians. That would set the tone for the day as video tributes filled some of the time between performances with a mixture of peers like Geezer Butler, Rob Halford, Chris Jericho and Tim "Ripper" Owens sharing screen time with fans around the world discussing what Ronnie meant to them.
That Metal Show host Eddie Trunk led the proceedings, sharing stories and introducing the speakers and performers. Trunk spoke of his introduction to Dio's music through the very familiar album artwork of Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell, the singer's incredible recall for remembering people and sharing some of Ronnie's good natured ribbing for not pursuing a UFO show on a trip overseas.
Opening the string of speakers for the day was Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, Ronnie's doctor and the Medical Director of the Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. Kapoor spoke of not really being familiar with Dio's music when he began treating him, but becoming a fan of the man. Kapoor marveled at the $1 million the cancer fund has raised so far, but added that Wendy Dio told him, "We're not done yet," and now setting a new goal to reach $10 million for cancer research. Kapoor also spoke of the importance for getting checked for cancer and some of the research the organization is pursuing.
Lita Ford was the day's first performer, delivering a touching acoustic song called "Lisa" that she had penned for her mother and sharing the inspiration from when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Flanked by bassist Marty O'Brien and guitarist Patrick Kennison, Ford set the tone early on in the proceedings.
Keeping in the acoustic vein, Great White would take the stage not long after with a performance of "Heaven and Hell" and they later invited Lorraine Lewis to sing on the acoustic rendition of "The Last in Line."
While many of the speakers kept things light with anecdotes about Ronnie, there were a few tearful moments during the memorial. A moved April Eppolito shared a story of her schizophrenic son who was threatening to jump from a tower, thinking he had failed Ronnie James Dio. After being contacted by police, Wendy Dio went to the scene, alerted Ronnie who was arriving on a flight and had him go directly to the tower where the young man was in peril. Dio talked the man down and gave him a hug afterward.
And Rough Cutt, who got back together to play at the memorial, offered a few words from vocalist Paul Shortino before playing "Take Her." Shortino spoke of Dio's generosity in the beginning of their career, but moved many in the audience to tears with an a capella rendition of Nat King Cole's "Smile."
One of the day's most powerful performances came from an all-star lineup featuring John Payne on vocals, with Ronnie's cousin Rock Feinstein, Stone Sour's Christian Martucci and Roy Mayorga, keyboardist Scott Warren and Quiet Riot's Sean McNabb on a blistering rendition of "Mistreated."
The performances continued to rock with up-and-comer Gabbie Rae delivering a rousing rendition of "Rainbow in the Dark," Ann Boleyn teaming with several Dio members on the rocking "Sign of the Southern Cross," and the dual vocals of Oni Logan and Joe Retta on "Stargazer."
Some of Ronnie's bandmates shared classic Dio stories. Drummer Vinny Appice revealed a couple of stellar pranks that he and Ronnie pulled, including a hilarious one where he and Ronnie made Tony Iommi think his new sports car was leaking oil and leading Iommi to call the motor club for help. Rudy Sarzo shared stories of Dio being able to find English pubs in the most random of places. Craig Goldy spoke of the importance of keeping "the Ronnie way" alive, and feeling like he received a golden ticket when getting to play with the singer. Meanwhile, Scott Warren shared a tale Dio calming a near riot by singing "Heaven and Hell" a capella to a crowd after having to cancel a show due to a band member injury.
The service ended with a performance of "Stand Up and Shout" led by Ricky Warwick, with Chris Broderick, Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice rounding out the group and then some final thank you's from Wendy Dio for the participation of everyone involved.
While the event was great for sharing Ronnie James Dio stories and remembrances, we invite you to hit the comments section at the bottom of this post to share your own stories. And feel free to check out the photo gallery from the Ronnie James Dio memorial service below.
Ronnie James Dio Memorial Photo Gallery