Ronnie James Dio was a metal legend with a powerful voice and even more powerful mystique. The mythology about Dio - from his alleged Satan worship to the meaning of his name - only fueled his reputation as a titan of heavy metal.
Through his career, from his days in Rainbow to his role as a replacement for Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, there are many things that have been believed or assumed about Dio. In reality, he was a much simpler person than his music suggested. As perhaps the most influential figure in heavy metal, mythology and misconception naturally surrounds the late singer's legacy and often overshadows the real man - a powerful singer from an Italian family in New Hampshire.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions and little-known facts about the man (not the myth or the legend) who was Ronnie James Dio.
Although Gene Simmons of KISS would have you believe differently, it's widely accepted that Dio pioneered the devil horns hand sign that he became famous for flashing and later came to represent heavy metal music.
"Ronnie told me the story. He said it was his grandmother [who] used to… It was called the ‘evil eye,'" Dio's former drummer Tommy Aldrich said in an interview with NME. Dio himself downplayed the notion that he made the gesture up himself, while Simmons was so sure it was his creation that he attempted to trademark it.
"To try to make money off of something like this is disgusting. It belongs to everyone; it doesn’t belong to anyone… It’s a public domain; it shouldn’t be trademarked," Wendy Dio said of Simmons's efforts.
Although Dio exuded a dark onstage personality and an image that encapsulated the heavy metal aesthetic, the singer was remembered after his passing as one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet.
As Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian told MTV:
Ronnie was the nicest man in metal. Every day on tour, he'd have a kind word, a smile and a clap on the back. I feel honored and privileged to even have shaken hands with Ronnie, let alone be able to say we were friends.
That sentiment was echoed by others following Dio's passing from cancer in 2010.
A massive collection of Dio's personal belongings were put up for auction at Julien's Auction in New York City in 2018. The auction featured 666 items, including an animatronic sphinx from Dio's 1984 The Last In Line tour, an animatronic dragon's head from the 1985 Sacred Heart tour, and "a personalized Black Sabbath hooded velour robe from the 1981 Mob Rules tour worn regularly backstage."
The most expensive item? The original Barry Jackson painting used for the cover of The Last In Line was expected to fetch $20,000 to $30,000.