Is Dio Really One Of The 20 Best Vocalists Ever?



Are you afraid of heavy metal’s future? Maybe you shouldn’t be; it might be in good hands, at least from a committee’s point of view.

Last month, LA Weekly named Ronnie James Dio among the “20 best singers of all time.” Now, that’s nothing to scoff at and quite the posthumous honor. Sure, he came in at number 20, but he’s still among such esteemed and beloved vocalists as Mariah Carey, Marvin Gaye, Ella Fitzgerald, Prince, James Brown, Maria Callas… well, I was going to pick through the list and present some of more interesting ones, but, hell, I’ll just give you the rest of the names: Diamanda Galás, Jimmy Scott, Elvis Presley, Ann Wilson, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Axl Rose, Aretha Franklin, and Freddie Mercury.

Now, credit has to be given to LA Weekly for saying up front that the list is composed of their favorite singers based on such criteria as expressiveness, phrasing, and showmanship, but really? Dio is the best vocalist heavy metal or hard rock has to offer based on those qualifications?

I wasted enough years working for a huge online website to be able to recognize a list voted on by committee, an editor’s favorite pick (in this case, probably Dio), out-of-place inclusions to look well-rounded, and a pretentious editor in chief’s choice. So, this list is null and void before it even gets to name the deserving Freddy Mercury. What’s more is the opening paragraph: “They’ve yet to invent an instrument that can move us more than the human voice… no guitar solo can do that.” Who the hell wrote that drivel? Have you not heard Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and countless others? Heck, The Beatles sang about weeping guitars, so what the writer was thinking, I don’t know. But that is neither here nor there for our purposes.

It’s clear that we’re not exactly talking about vocal technique here — since the publication stated this outright — so let’s ask, where’s David Lee Roth? That man right there has been one of the most dynamic, athletic, charismatic, and engaging vocalists in rock history. Oh, and he might not have been perfect, but he could belt it out. Or how about Steven Tyler? Where is he?

However, neither Roth nor Tyler are the same type of vocalist as Dio. But Bruce Dickinson is, and I’d definitely put him on LA Weekly’s list over Dio. In my opinion, the Iron Maiden frontman is a giant compared to the Black Sabbath replacement singer. Not exactly in the same vein, but Steve Perry of Journey could be on this list instead of Dio, or Chris Cornell, or Blackie Lawless, David Coverdale, Robert Plant, Sebastian Bach, Rob Halford…

That’s just a cursory selection of alternatives, as the list could go on ad nauseam.

Although I would have prefered to see heavy metal represented differently, it’s hard to condemn LA Weekly for including Dio on its list. It is, after all, surprising that the publication even knows who he is. It’s also hard to argue with a fire-breathing dragon that shoot lasers from its eyes. But, if I had to argue, I’d fight for Bruce Dickinson or, at the very least, the Black Sabbath singer who helped put the godfathers of metal on the map.

If you don’t like my objection to Dio’s inclusion, YELL at me in the comments section below. And don’t forget to tell us who you would have liked to have seen on the list… or tell us why Dio is deserving.

Rock Hard \m/

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