Special Report by Greg Prato
On April 1st, Rhino Records will be releasing the RONNIE JAMES DIO tribute album, This is Your Life, with its proceeds benefiting the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. Renditions of classics that span Dio's career (through RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH, and DIO) were contributed by the likes of METALLICA, ROB HALFORD, COREY TAYLOR, TENACIOUS D, ANTHRAX, MOTÖRHEAD with SAXON'S BIFF BYFORD, DORO, THE SCORPIONS, and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, among countless others.
And tonight (Monday, March 17th), the 3rd Annual Awards Gala and This is Your Life album preview will take place at the Avalon in Hollywood, CA. The gala begins at 6:00PM, and tickets (VIP and GA) are available via Diocancerfund.org
. The event will include live performances of songs from the album by Halestorm, Corey Taylor, Jason Christopher, Christian Martucci, Roy Mayorga, Oni Logan, Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy, and more surprise guests.
Recently, the tribute's organizer (and Ronnie's wife/manager), WENDY DIO, as well as Anthrax drummer CHARLIE BENANTE, chatted with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato about how the tribute album came together, memories of the late/great singer, and also upcoming Dio-related projects.
BraveWords: How did the initial idea come up to do the tribute album?
Wendy Dio: "I've been talking about it for two-and-a-half years. The idea came up because I just wanted to keep Ronnie's legacy and music alive, but also, to raise funds for charity - for research and education into cancer, and to hopefully find a cure one day."
BraveWords: Do you have a favorite track?
Wendy Dio: "That's a hard one to ask me, because all of these people had something to do with Ronnie's life, also. I mean, everything came from their heart. This was just a record made with love. I can't say…Metallica, of course, unbelievable, their tracks are unbelievable. Metallica did four songs, because they couldn't think of one they liked, so they did four songs from Rainbow, which was 'Stargazer,' 'Tarot Woman,' 'A Light in the Black,' and 'Kill the King.' Well, they managed to put their stamp on these songs and make '70s songs come into the 21st century. 'Kill the King,' while you're listening to it, you can kind of feel a mosh pit going on. It's amazing what they did is amazing. The songs are definitely the Rainbow songs, definitely the Ronnie songs, but they have put their stamp on it and was really blown away with it. Blown away by Corey Taylor's 'Rainbow in the Dark,' Jack Black with 'Last in Line,' 'Starstruck' by Motörhead [and Saxon's Biff Byford], the Scorpions did the most amazing job of 'Temple of the King' - it sounds like it should be a Scorpions song. KLAUS [MEINE] and Ronnie were very good friends. Rob Halford…I can't pick a favorite track, because of the fact that I am so close to it all."
BraveWords: Any other Ronnie-related projects on the horizon?
Wendy Dio: "Planning on re-releasing HEAR 'N AID next year, with the money going to the charity. And obviously, there is a lot of unreleased stuff there - there's boxes and boxes and boxes that have been in storage forever. We just have to get the legal stuff done, which is the hardest thing. You can always get the bands to do something, but it's the legal licensing of talking with the record labels they're on and the management and so on, to get something off the ground. So we're hoping to do that."
BraveWords: And I recall hearing a while back that a book about Ronnie's life was being worked on.
Wendy Dio: "Ronnie had written three-quarters of it, and I said I would finish it. I have a publisher, but I've been so busy with everything. And also, it's kind of hard to sit down and have to spend four to six months of time just trying to deal with it. But it's one of the things that I'm definitely going to finish this year - as well as a documentary. We are going to film a documentary of Ronnie's life. I've already started that, actually."
BraveWords: When do you think the documentary will be completed?
Wendy Dio: "Oh, probably not until next year or the year after. I want to do things properly. We don't have any real special hurry in time to do it. Ronnie's music and legend will be alive forever, I think. And I'll make sure I keep it alive."
(Photo above by Gene Kirkland)
BraveWords: How was it recording the song 'Neon Knights,' and are you happy with how it came out?
Charlie Benante: "I love the way it came out. I pretty much think we hit it right on the head. Just like with our Anthems record, we didn't want to go too far off course. We wanted to pay tribute to the artists and basically, the essence of what Dio and Sabbath at the time were about. So we just wanted to hit that right on the head, and we were all extremely happy with what we did."
BraveWords: When did you first hear Ronnie, and what were your initial impressions?
Charlie Benante: "It was definitely back when he was with Rainbow. And I remember one of the big records at the time in the neighborhood was Rainbow Rising. I remember one of my friends had the painting on the back of his jacket - that's how heavy we were into Rainbow. And me, I was never a big DEEP PURPLE fan. But I loved Rainbow. And it probably has a lot to do with Ronnie's voice. I mean, those songs off of Rainbow Rising are just fucking awesome. It's just killer, that whole thing. So I became a Dio fan right away, and started following him. I was so happy about the Sabbath thing, but I was also worried - I was such a huge Sabbath fan at the time, and didn't know what to expect. I remember my two friends, two brothers, Rich and Michael, they got the record first, and I'll never forget listening to that record and the first song, boom. I was fucking hooked. That record to me…it was better than any of those last Sabbath records [1976's Technical Ecstasy and 1978's Never Say Die!]. And I think Ronnie had a lot to do with that."
BraveWords: How was Ronnie as a person?
Charlie Benante: "Just a very warm, generous, caring person. Just a real gentleman when you talked to him. He made you feel very comfortable and very welcomed. And what you were talking to him at the time - whatever it may be, whether it be sports or whatever - he was very genuine."
BraveWords: Do you agree Ronnie is one of the greatest heavy metal singers of all time?
Charlie Benante: "I hate saying, 'This guy is the greatest' or 'That guy is the greatest,' but sometimes, you've just got to give it up to someone who probably was one of the greatest. Because we throw out these things so frequently - 'Oh, he's a fucking genius. Oh, he's the greatest.' It's like…for me, let's give it to someone who really was a fucking genius, or there really was greatness there."
This Is Your Life tracklisting:
'Neon Knights' - ANTHRAX*
'The Last In Line' - TENACIOUS D*
'The Mob Rules' - ADRENALINE MOB
'Rainbow In The Dark' - Corey Taylor, Roy Mayorga, Satchel, Christian Martucci, Jason Christopher*
'Straight Through The Heart' - HALESTORM*
'Starstruck' - MOTÖRHEAD with Biff Byford*
'The Temple Of The King' - SCORPIONS*
'Egypt (The Chains Are On)' - DORO
'Holy Diver' - KILLSWITCH ENGAGE
'Catch The Rainbow' - Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren*
'I' - Oni Logan, Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy*
'Man On The Silver Mountain' - Rob Halford, Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren*
Ronnie Rising Medley (Featuring 'A Light In The Black', 'Tarot Woman', 'Stargazer', 'Kill The King') - METALLICA*
'This Is Your Life' - DIO
Digital Bonus Track:
'Buried Alive' - JASTA *
Japan Bonus Tracks:
'Heaven And Hell' - STRYPER
'Stand Up And Shout' - DIO DISCIPLES
* Previously unreleased