When the hard rock/heavy metal pioneer Ronnie James Dio lost his battle with cancer this past weekend, it got me thinking about all the truly great singers who are no longer with us. A while back I started a list of the best singers in hard rock and metal, and Dio was in my top 5. Sadly, he makes this list as well. Though these singers are no longer with us in mind and body, their music will live on forever....
1. RONNIE JAMES DIO. What can be said that hasn't already been said by his many friends and colleauges? He was a true trailblazer, starting out a long, long time ago. He made a name for himself in Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and his own namesake band, among others. His was simply one of the best and most powerful voices in rock, and influenced countless other musicians AND music fans, for well over 40 years! He was a philanthropist as well, with the Hear 'N Aid project, and his charity Children of the Night. RIP Ronnie. You will be missed.
2. STEVE MARRIOT. From the early days in the Small Faces, singing about groovy things like "Itchykoo Park", to the hard and blusey rockin of Humble Pie, Steve Marriot was the consumate rock singer. I still get chills when I put on "30 Days in the Hole", and blown away by "I Don't Need no Doctor". Humble Pie may have given the world Peter Frampton, but Marriot was its true star, a diamond in the rough. I saw the Pie in early 1990, with only drummer Jerry Shirley as it sole original member. We met and spoke briefly, and I asked him about Steve. He said he gave his blessing for the tour, but he chose to stay home in England to play in small blues clubs. He died in April 1991.
3. LAYNE STALEY. Alice in Chains were poised to become grunge's next big thing. (Which they pretty much did.) Nirvana had imploded after Cobain shot himself (another amazing singer no longer with us), and only Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were selling records. Alice in Chains released several incredible albums with Staley, who co-wrote a lot of the lyrics. His voice was unique and instantly recognizable. Check out any AIC album that he was on, or the "Mad Season" album for proof of his greatness.
3. DAVID BYRON. British born David Byron joined the progressive hard rock band Uriah Heep in 1969. He suffered through alcohol and health problems, and the band fired him in 1976, after a number of awesome albums. From the acoustic strains of "The Wizard", to the screams and power of "Bird of Prey", Byron had an amazing range. Uriah Heep invited him to rejoin the band in 1980, but he turned them down, and passed away in 1985. "Me and my magic man, kinda feeling fine..."
5. BON SCOTT. Last, but certainly not least, is Bon Scott. I first heard of AC/DC when "High Voltage" and "TNT" came out. I still love those old albums he played on, and listen to them frequently! They are still relevant today, and an important piece of the rock and roll puzzle. Sure, they went on to greatness with Brian Johnson, and they STILL rock to this day; but the lean, early years made the world wake up and take note of this powerful and charismatic singer named Bon. He belived in giving 110% every show. Unfortunately, that also applied to his partying lifestyle, and Scott was found dead in his car in 1980. There will never be another Bon Scott.
Now there are many, many more that could have made this list. FREDDIE MERCURY made my original top five, but dropped down a notch with the recent passing of Dio. Thin Lizzy's PHIL LYNOTT, the "holy trinity" of JIMI/JANIS/JIM, Foghat's "LONESOME" DAVE PEVERETT, MICHAEL HUTCHENCE of INXS, and even Sublime's BRAD NORWELL are all perfect example of singers , taken from us much too soon, jamming in Heaven with the good Lord himself!
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