DIO: Dreamers Never Die Awes, Inspires
Wendy Dio discusses the new film honoring the legacy of her late husband
DIO: Dreamers Never Die is the new cradle to grave documentary about the late Ronnie James Dio. Directed by Demian Fenton and Don Argott, the picture is a revealing look at metal’s most legendary vocalist.
With appearances from many of his former bandmates (including Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, and Geezer Butler), Jack Black, and Rob Halford, the film leaves virtually no stone unturned in its seemingly scant two-hour running time.
Wendy Dio, Ronnie’s wife and manager recently spoke with us about the film and Ronnie himself.
It’s hard not see this film and think about what Ronnie’s music means to me. How empowering it is. As a teenager, for instance, I felt at odds with the world and here was this guy saying, “Believe in yourself and everything else will follow.”
Exactly, exactly. The song “Invisible” is about teenagers having trouble in life at home or even not knowing what gender they want to be. They want to become invisible. There was a message in most of his songs. He liked to write a song so that people could translate it to any kind of thing that it that meant to them. I had different people listen to the same song, but think it means something different. That’s what he wanted.
In the film, there’s a short clip of Ronnie sitting in the library reading. And in order to get such wonderful lyrics, he must have been a voracious reader.
Absolutely. He read a book every day at least. He read everything. He loved science fiction. Everything. Same with music. People would say, “Do you like that?” and he would say, “There’s no bad music.” Because whatever someone created, they created it. And you can’t say it was bad music. It was it was their music.
VIDEO: Black Sabbath “Heaven and Hell (Live)”
I was listening to the song “Heaven and Hell.” And I thought, “Here comes Ronnie into this band where Ozzy had such an imprint on the group to begin with. And now they’re, they’re essentially a new band, and he’s writing the song ‘Heaven and Hell” that has a hook in a way a Black Sabbath song didn’t have before.” So it’s like he had this reputation as a metal person. But I think he also understood pop music very well.
They became more melodic. The Ozzy era was fantastic. In his heyday, Ozzy was one of the best front men. They were innovators. But then Ronnie came in, he didn’t want to change the band. He just made it different and made it a different stamp on it that was much more melodic.
There’s that amazing footage of him singing “Bible Black” and giving it his all. He was at an age when some performers don’t have that prowess any longer. But he didn’t relent.
He was suffering with stomach cancer then but didn’t know it. He had been sick for a long time. But though it was just indigestion; he was eating antacids like they were like going out of style. He didn’t know he had some dreadful cancer.
Was he the kind of performer who could get on stage and forget about whatever malady he might have had on a given night?
Ronnie love to perform. He loved his audience. He absolutely loved his audience. One time he was really sick in London, and they were going to cancel the show. And he said, “No, no, no, no.” He had canceled some interviews beforehand because he wasn’t feeling well. The interviewer saw the show and said, “He was fine.” Then he saw him after the show and said, “Oh my God; he really was sick.” He gave it his all once he was on stage.
That was his thing. He loved that most more than anything. He had a connection with fans, that each fan thought that they he was singing just to them. He loved his fans. Probably more than me probably more than the animals. I think I came third after the bands, first, and animals second.
I put in my notes on the film that he was confident but kind. Sometimes there’s an arrogance with people who have such a talent.
He could be arrogant with me. Both very strong minded people.
I know it’s been important to you to get the message out about early detection of cancer since Ronnie’s passing.
Early detection saves lives. Had we known anything about cancer before, maybe Ronnie would still be with us. But I didn’t know anything about cancer, he knew nothing about cancer, I had taken him to a specialist, about six years before he passed away for his stomach pains.
They just gave him tests of his heart and everything. They said, “Ah, it’s just a gas bubble. Don’t worry about it.” But had we known then we would have had a colonoscopy. That’s one of the things that we try to put out now: Early detection saves lives. We raise money and donate to research and education into finding a cure for this horrible disease.
There’s been a lot of money put into breast cancer research and that’s come a long, long way. And that’s fantastic. But cancers like pancreatic cancer and stomach cancer need to have more money for research. We found out that Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville didn’t even have research for it. We donated $100,000 and because of that someone else donated $500,000 and the government came in and gave $11 million. So we try to do seed money.
Cancer is an unbelievably expensive disease to have. I went to get a pill for Ronnie during the cancer and they said it was $600. I said, “Well, I have insurance.” “No, but that’s your copay.” Which was fine with me. But what about Joe Blow down the road. He doesn’t have $600 for a pill once a month.
He was vocal about his struggle and others might have kept it private. His voice on the matter helped people.
Tony Iommi went and got checked because of it and found that he had a cancer. And thank goodness, he’s in remission now, because he caught it early. But that’s the thing. You’ve got to get early detection.
Ronnie appeared in the Tenacious D film The Pick of Destiny and it’s funny because Ronnie isn’t playing himself. He’s playing a young boy’s idea of what Ronnie James Dio is.
That was a great time when he was filming. That was really fun. Jack and Ronnie got on really, really well together. They both have really good sense of humor. And that was another thing people didn’t know about Ronnie. incredible sense of humor.
He was a prankster. The bands would do thing to each other on the road. I Tony Iommi was terrified of snakes. Ronnie found this snake skin, that snake had gone and I guess shed his skin and Ronnie tied it on the inside of Tony’s car so that when Tony opened the door, this big snake they would pop out! [Laughs.]
Holy Diver came out earlier this year with this wonderful remix and bonus material.
I worked very closely with Rhino on that. Rhino are amazing people. They have such wonderful staff right now that are very passionate about music, which is really important. You know, for a while record labels, wouldn’t really do much. And you know, but this these people at Rhino really, really care. And also BMG, both. Both of them are just unbelievable to work with and so much fun.
I really hope that people will go back and explore these records again, especially Magica.
That was supposed to be a trilogy. Ronnie had wanted really wanted to create kind of rock opera with that. That was his dream. He really wanted to complete that trilogy and that story.
Was there music beyond what we’ve heard?
There is some unfinished pieces. You know, we’ve been going down his old engineer, Wyn Davis and I have been going through the vault where we have so much stuff there and looking through it. It’s a big task. We did find a few things that maybe we can finish and put out but you know, with Ronnie, he was a perfectionist. So we have to honor his memory.
Ronnie came into your life during his time with Rainbow, you went through ups and downs with that band and then Sabbath, then Dio. It was a wild ride. What was it like for you?
Well, we rode it together. We had good times, bad times. But we never gave up. Whatever we did we did together. We had the bad times the good times the in between times. We just did it together. So I just tried to keep his memory alive after he died. And I find a lot of young kids now playing his music, which I’m really, really happy about. There’s a whole other generation listening to his music Stranger Things recently, using his Last In Line on the back of the jacket. A lot of the kids have their eyes open now. They’re going back and finding the music and I think that’s wonderful.
VIDEO: DIO: Dreamers Never Die trailer
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