The first authorized documentary about metal icon and Cortland native Ronnie James Dio made its Central New York premiere recently, and I couldn't wait to see it.

Before we get to the movie, a quick briefing on my Dio fandom:

There was something about Ronnie James Dio that captured my imagination growing up. Of course, initially, it was the popular songs like Rainbow in the DarkHoly Diver, and The Last in Line that first brought me on board. It wasn't until later that I learned of his Black Sabbath tenure. "Wait, Dio was in Sabbath?" I remember thinking. I didn't realize Black Sabbath put out anything worthwhile after Ozzy left.

Boy, was I wrong.

Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules are absolute masterpieces, and in my opinion, better than anything they did with Ozzy. This can be a rather controversial opinion. But I thought Dio's operatic voice complimented Tony Iommi's brooding riffs perfectly.

Rhino Records
Rhino Records

In the late 2000s, when Dio reunited with Tony and Geezer to form the band Heaven & Hell (with Vinny Appice on the kit), I was fortunate enough to see them. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and they played at the famous Greek Theatre. It was a great show. When Dio passed in 2010, there was a public wake in Los Angeles, which I also attended. After the wake, Ronnie's widow Wendy came out and personally thanked every single fan that came to pay their respects. I'll never forget that.

Still have my Dio memorial button from the wake (Will Phillips)
Still have my Dio memorial button from the wake (Will Phillips)


Dio: Dreamers Never Die had a special screening at the Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA on September 28th. The movie spans Ronnie's entire life, and Central New York is heavily represented. They talk about his early years raising hell in Cortland and being trained on the trumpet -- which, according to Dio, tempered his powerful singing voice because you're using your diaphragm to play it.

The movie accentuates a recurring theme with Ronnie: he never compromised his beliefs. Even though the music he made was dark and evil, there was a positive message behind much of it. Ronnie was a big advocate of relentlessly chasing your dreams. When he was ousted from the band Rainbow because they wanted to go in a more radio-friendly direction, he stuck to his guns and found his biggest success in his own eponymous band, where he was allowed to be as "mystical" and heavy as he wanted.

Even in the early '90s, when the Nirvana-led grunge movement dethroned heavy metal as rock's most popular subgenre, Dio forged ahead, playing to audiences a fraction of the size they were in the '80s. Dio lived for his art, and true artists keep making art, regardless of the public's wavering tastes. Plus, there was always something a little underdog-y about Dio, which was part of his appeal.

One memorable part of the film covers Ronnie's connection to his fanbase, and how he always took the time to chat with fans, often holding up his own tour bus. He had an incredible memory and often remembered small details about these conversations, and brought them up if he saw that same fan again. "Your dad was sick last time we talked, how's he doing?"

Dio: Dreamers Never Die is mandatory viewing if you're a Dio fan. And even if you're not, this movie might make you one.

2nd Annual Revolver Golden Gods Awards - Arrivals
Getty Images

Dio: Dreamers Never Die will have another special one-day showing at these locations:

  • Sunday, October 2nd, 3pm: Regal Destiny USA, Syracuse, New York
  • Sunday, October 2nd, 3pm: Movie Tavern, Camillus, New York
  • Sunday, October 2nd, 3pm: Regal Ithaca Mall, Ithaca, New York

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