Ronnie James Dio is known as a heavy metal mysticist. Throughout his career, he has penned lyrics of medieval kings, mystic dragons, magic and evil. But nothing about Dio is that straight forward.
Starting with the name “Dio.” He was born Ronald James Padavona, and began using the name Dio in the early 1960’s, ostensibly after the gangster “Johnny Dio,” but there is more to it than that.
He grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, and his disagreement with the church has clearly influenced his writing, but his choice of stage name – Dio – translates from Italian as “god,” so while he rejected the church of his heritage, he has accepted a moniker of religious significance.
Because of his propensity to build in more than what meets the eye, there is often reason to look. And when one looks for something, we will often find it, whether or not it was intended. This article looks at some of the double entendres in Dio’s work.
The Mob Rules
The cover of “Mob Rules” – Black Sabbath’s second album with Dio, features cover art by Greg Hildebrandt – known for his Lord of the Rings illustrations – done in the 1970’s entitled “Mob Dream.” At the time the record was released in 1981, there was some significant turmoil between the band and former lead singer Ozzy Osbourne, apparently over the rights to play some of the Sabbath catalog. When “Mob Rules” was released, some saw the words “Kill Ozzy” written on the ground in the artwork. Hildebrandt denies it is there – and certainly a look at the original artwork and the album cover would suggest that the markings are at best an odd coincidence.
The introduction to the song “The Mob Rules” on the album is a heavily synthesized instrumental piece called “E5150.” Without lyrics, there is no apparent reason for such an odd name, yet when parsed out from roman numerals, E 5-1-50 becomes “E V I L:” 5=V, 1=I and 50=L. Again, it’s difficult to say with any degree of specificity that was the intention, although it seems quite plausible.
Also worthy of note, the live album that was recorded during the “Mob Rules” tour was titled “Live Evil” – a palindrome.
“Dio’s” fourth album “Dream Evil” showed a newly stylized “Dio” logo in the corner. On the previous three records, Dio was a heavily stylized and thickly lettered word. On Dream Evil, however, the letters appeared less thick and the stylization took on a different look. When turned upside down, the logo appears to say “Devil.”
The Devil Horn Salute
While with Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne would flash a “peace sign” to the crowds. After Dio joined the band he took to using a gesture called the Corna which is made by holding the pointer finger and the pinky finger in the air, while holding the other fingers down – a “devil horn” salute as it has come to be known.
The corna itself has a multitude of meanings. Anton LaVey, author of the Satanic Bible, popularized the gesture as a symbol of Satanism in the 1960’s. Dio has said, though, that his grandmother used the gesture to ward off evil. While it is true that it is used as such, it is considered rather vulgar and it’s difficult to imagine a granny resorting to something of that ilk. Again, however, we find more than one meaning behind Dio’s work.
Perhaps it was an effort to connect with the crowds as some have suggested, or perhaps it was to demonstrate a different meaning all together. And yes, the word DEMONStrate was used here purposefully.