We feel that our time has arrived
The world spins while we put his wings together
A tower of stone to take him straight to the sky
Oh I see his face..."
Ronnie James Dio was THE voice of Umlaut's generation of Metal... and now that voice is silenced. The public memorial took place on Sunday, May 30th at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles. Photo Ray made the pilgrimage to this final farewell to Dio and represented the Umlaut Nation. THANKS Ray.
Submitted by Photo Ray:
Today's public memorial service for the late Ronnie James Dio was without a doubt one of the most touching, moving, and heartfelt experiences of my life. I know that may sound over the top dramatic, but it is the absolute truth. I did not know, nor had I ever met Ronnie James Dio. In fact, the closest I ever came was looking at him through my camera lens the two times I had the opportunity to photograph Heaven and Hell, as well as the many times I had seen him live over the years. But after witnessing first hand the infinite amount of love and respect that people showed for him today, and hearing so many incredible stories, I couldn't help but feel like I had known Ronnie my entire life. To say that he was a very special person that touched the lives of many people would be a gross understatement. I'm not sure that I can truly articulate what an amazing memorial this really was, so I will instead just give you a brief synopsis of the day.....
We arrived at the Forest Hills Cemetery around 12:30pm, and after walking over to, and taking pictures of, the much over-hyped group who were protesting the memorial (they were small in numbers, and won't even be an afterthought to the day) we walked up the hill to the Hall Of Liberty where the ceremony was to take place. Seeing the huge video screen and the hundreds of chairs on the lawn I thought that everything was going to be taking place outside. And then I saw the line. As it turns out, the ceremony was to take place inside, and due to the limited amount of seating, fans (some who had been there since 8:00am) were given wristbands to assure them a seat inside the hall. The rest of the fans would be able to watch on the TV's and video screens set up outside. Although my friends and I were disappointed that we did not show up early enough to get a wristband, we were stoked to even be there, and gladly accepted the fact that we were going to watch everything from outside.
However, not wanting to admit defeat just yet, we tracked down the person in charge of public relations for the event, and after my friend explained that she was with a local radio station, and I explained that I was a photographer for many different outlets (both of which are 100% true) we were given press wristbands which allowed us to enter. We were in.
Walking inside, I admit that the photographer in me wanted to take over. There were pictures of Ronnie everywhere, as well as fan art, huge floral arrangements, and a long table with white paper rolled out across it for people to write their condolences. After photographing all of this though, I put my camera down for a minute and re-evaluated everything. Things were starting to sink in. I was here not only as a photographer, but as a fan. I walked over and stared at each picture and would be lying if I said I didn't get goosebumps. I tried to think of something epic to write on the paper, but what came out was a barely legible jumble of words that may or may not have made sense. (I noticed later that I had misspelled a word, and after attempting to correct it what I had written was now even more illegible) But I really didn't care.
As Eddie Trunk took the stage to start the memorial, I wasn't sure what to expect. I wondered if this was just going to be about celebrities and rock stars getting up to say a few words and that would be it. I could not have been more wrong. Eddie did an absolutely fantastic job narrating throughout the day, and him telling stories and sharing his experiences with Ronnie really added to the ceremony. Just listening to him you could tell that he was honored to be there, and still a little shaken up over the passing of his friend.
The next three and a half hours were filled with countless speakers, video clips, and musical performances that spoke volumes of the man Ronnie was, as well as the music he created. A performance of 'Sitting In A Dream' from The Butterfly Ball and The Grasshopper's Feast record; a High School friend who threw the trademark horns and had the crowd chanting "Dio!, Dio!, Dio!" after he spoke; and some tear-inducing words from Ronnie's son, Dan Padavona, who said that had Ronnie gone to the doctor earlier and not ignored his symptoms he may very well be alive today, all got the memorial off to a tear-inducing start. What got to me however, was seeing the early video clips of Ronnie performing with both Elf and Rainbow. Watching him on stage belt out 'Stargazer' 'Long Live Rock N Roll' and 'Man On The Silver Mountain' just reaffirmed what an amazing vocalist and front man the world of Metal had lost....
As sad as all this may seem though, the service was definitely turning out to be more of a celebration of Ronnie's life, and the type of person he was. There was a story from Nick Jackson, who work for a concert lighting company, and who was approached by Ronnie to handle the lighting for Sabbath's Heaven and Hell world tour in 1980. For the band's debut show at the legendary Hammersmith Odeon in London, Ronnie had wanted pyro, and during a demonstration on the stage of Hammersmith, Nick's pyro was so over the top that it literally blew holes into the stage. Thinking he was going to be fired, he apprehensively approached Ronnie, only to find out that Ronnie absolutely loved what Nick had done. There was a funny story from Ronnie's assistant, Willy Fyfe, involving black testicles. John Payne, singer from the band Asia, delivered a pretty amazing acoustic version of 'Heaven and Hell'. Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna did the same with 'Man On The Silver Mountain'.
As the memorial progressed to cover the Dio era of Ronnie's career, things got more emotional. Simon Wright and Craig Goldy both gave touching speeches about their time in Dio, and what Ronnie had done for them. Paul Shortino did a very nice and very fitting rendition of The Beatles 'Places I Remember'. But it was former Black Sabbath and Deep Purple vocalist Glen Hughes who really brought the house down with an epic version of 'Coast to Coast'. I'm not sure there was a dry eye in the entire place. A video message from the obviously still shaken members of Motörhead, who could not be there due to tour commitments, was also a very nice touch. As people touched upon about just how much Ronnie gave back to the world, including his work with Hear N' Aid and Children Of The Night. After a very emotional speech by Ronnie's doctor, who was with him until the very end, Wendy Dio stepped up to the podium and simply thanked everyone for being there. She really didn't have to say more. What she put together for the fans on this day spoke volumes. As a fan of her husband for almost thirty years, I cannot thank her enough for giving the world the opportunity to celebrate her husband's life.
I did take pictures at the memorial, but those will be for another time. I was there as a fan first, and a photographer second. For now I just want to help convey what an amazing person Ronnie James Dio was, and what an incredible catalog of music he has left behind. I consider myself very fortunate to have been a part of his memorial. R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio. You were, and always will be a true legend. A tower of stone has taken you straight to the sky.
Meanwhile, on this same day on the other side of the country, thousands of Metalheads (including many Umlaut Nation friends) were attending Maryland Deathfest (For the newbies: MDF is considered by many to be THE annual Metal event in North America...). The Metal Cycle continues... May the circle stay unbroken.
Click HERE to see Photo Ray's images from the memorial.