Today is Monday, May 16th, 2011. It is a day that is many things to many people. For some first and foremost it is a Monday. (A wash of groans comes over the populace. After all, who needs Mondays?) For some it is simply a workday or a school day. Perhaps today is a happy day like a birthday or a wedding anniversary. Well, upon reflection, depending on your viewpoint a birthday or anniversary might not be a happy day. Amazing what point of view can do, isn’t it?
For me today is a bittersweet day. One year ago Ronnie James Dio lost his battle with stomach cancer. The skyline of heroes in my life became emptier. In my vista of dreams something precious was lost forever.
My darling husband will at this point roll his eyes. Dio again? Why Dio? One of my dearest friends these past thirty years asked the same question last May. Erika, why are you grieving so for a man you never met? They have a point. I never met Ronnie Dio and now I never will. He was simply a singer of songs. He was not a friend of mine. He was not a relative. Why shed tears for him? Why mark his passing one year later?
The answers take the forms of clichés. While I hate that they are clichés the reality is that all great truths are almost formulaic. That the answers have been said before does not make them any less true. So the question remains: why mourn the passing of a 67 year-old man I never knew?
I will answer like this. I did know him. Or at least, I knew a part of him. Dio poured his heart and soul and a little bit of magic into the songs that he wrote and performed. His lyrics came from his dreams, hopes and aspirations and he passed those on to his listeners. Those of us fortunate enough to hear him would be irrevocably changed by the images that came dancing through our ears lifting up our hearts.
And he knew us. Or at least, he knew part of us. He knew that somewhere in the world we answered. He sang and we sang along. We dreamed right with him. Dio’s songs have colored my life for decades. They have influenced how I see the world and what I believe to be important.
We’d catch the rainbow,
Ride the wind to the sun
And sail away on ships of wonder.
But life’s not a wheel
With chains made of steel
So bless me, come the dawn.”
He sang of chasing rainbows, of a light in the black and of heaven and hell. His songs were stories of a lady in a tower, of the hero’s journey, of dragons and of kings. Dio sang of religion, of preachers on the mountain and holy men threading truth and lies. He sang again and again of good versus evil and of the potential in us all to do and be either.
We all have our sources of inspiration. Ronnie James Dio is one of mine. I am sure that you have yours too. I worry though that as we move through life we begin to set aside or lose those sources. We begin to miss the possibilities of the road before us. We begin to settle. We become resigned. I worry that as passion dies then so do we bit by bit. Instead of questioning, “Why?” we accept “That’s the way it is.” There is much that is wrong with our world that can be traced back to people forgetting to dream or losing their way. Marriages and relationships fail as passion fades. Good ideas are never born because people forget to think and feel differently. We begin to blend and to be one in the crowd. People become embittered because their lives are not what they wanted and in their minds it’s too late to change.
So, I encourage everyone to hold on to their passion, their fire. I hope that whatever your inspiration, be it your faith, the beauty of the world around you, your family or a singer of songs that you will seize it. I hope you take it out into the light and let it inspire you again. I hope that you will dream in bold terms, laugh loudly and live well.
Ultimately, I wrote this piece for me. I wrote it because I needed to remember. As I said this is a bittersweet day for me. Bitter because a good man was lost. Sweet because he still inspires me to dream and I am still chasing those dreams. As Dio said, “It’s not the size of the pencil, it’s how big you write your name.” I hope I will always dream big. I hope I will never become ashamed for shedding a tear for a singer of songs.
“To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.” -ancient Egyptian inscription.
For those of you who would like a peek into Erika’s head, I would tell you to listen to some of Ronnie’s music. I challenge each of you to listen to “Catch the Rainbow” and “The Temple of the King” (both under the group Rainbow) to start. For those looking for something a bit more meaty try “Mob Rules” and “Heaven and Hell” (Black Sabbath), “Holy Diver”, “Last in Line” and “I Am” (all under the group Dio). In his fifty years in music up through his last studio album “The Devil You Know” Dio had more musical masterpieces than can be listed but this is a good start. Enjoy!