Ronnie James Dio was handed one of the most unenviable tasks in rock when he stepped into Ozzy Osbourne’s shoes in Black Sabbath, but he somehow managed to replace the irreplaceable.
Before he joined Sabbath, Dio already had a vast reputation as one of Britain’s most commanding frontmen, and he also had 20 years of experience to draw from. While most singers would have been overawed by joining a behemoth like Sabbath, Dio acted as if he belonged there, and his presence revitalised the group.
Although he was only with Sabbath for three albums, his impact is revered by some among the group’s best work. Following his departure due to creative differences in 1992, Dio went solo, and his wings soared when he didn’t have bandmates to restrict him.
The late Dio remains a God-like figure in the metal world, and his words were treated as gospel. Despite his frosty exit from the group, when Dio named his five favourite songs of all time to Blabbermouth in 2009, he did include ‘War Pigs’ by his former outfit.
Explaining why he picked the song from the Osbourne-era, he said: “That was Geezer’s lyrics. They stand up because that was a protest about people who were creating war, and they’ve never heard that before. That’s a strange title, isn’t it? You just put that together, and it’s so clever. Musically, it was just written so well.”
He also included Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’, a track Dio believed to be “one of the greatest songs of all time”. The former Rainbow frontman added: “Ritchie (Blackmore) wrote a riff that we can all play — so simple, but it is a magnificent riff. I just think it’s one of the ultimate classic songs of all time, and when I hear it, I hark back to that time in my life — it’s important to me.”
Additionally, he named ‘Nostradamus’ by Judas Priest and Soundgarden’s ‘Spoonman’. Dio also praised Chris Cornell’s songwriting capabilities and remarked: “I just think it’s a great song, and it’s such an unusual song from that album. They just write so differently, yet they retain the influences from the hard-rock guys and the heavy-metal people from before.”
Finally, the list is completed by Metallica and their signature track ‘Enter Sandman’, which Dio earmarked as a track that changed the direction of their career. “It’s just a well-played, perfect song from them at the perfect time. Everyone expected something different — or maybe they expected something the same — and they gave them something very, very different, so that’s a great song,” he complementarity said.
Listen to a playlist of Dio’s selections below.
Ronnie James Dio’s five favourite songs:
- ‘War Pigs’ – Black Sabbath
- ‘Smoke on the Water’ – Deep Purple
- ‘Nostradamus’ – Judas Priest
- ‘Spoonman’ – Soundgarden
- ‘Enter the Sandman’ – Metallica