The American singer Ronnie James Dio first met Ritchie Blackmore when his early band Elf was touring with Deep Purple as their opening act in the early 70s. Although they didn’t have much contact because the guitarist was a reserved person, he did remember Dio when he decided to leave Purple and form a new band.
Rainbow was formed in 1975 and quickly became one of the most important Hard Rock bands in the world, releasing three classic albums with Dio on vocals. Besides recording the vocals, the singer also co-wrote almost all the tracks with Blackmore but everything started to change when the guitarist decided that the band should try to write more commercial songs.
Blackmore wanted to reach more people and be on the Pop charts and that was something that didn’t please Dio and other musicians. They ended up leaving or being fired by Blackmore. The version varies, since Dio said he left and his widow and ex-manager Wendy said he was fired. The only band member besides Blackmore that stayed was the drummer Cozy Powell and they invited Roger Glover (Bass), Graham Bonnet (Vocals) and Don Airey (Keyboards) to join the band. The result was the record “Down To Earth”, which had a more commercial sound and performed well on the charts.
But what was the opinion of Ronnie James Dio on his replacement Graham Bonnet?
What was Ronnie James Dio’s opinion on Graham Bonnet
In 1979, the same year he left Rainbow, Dio was invited by Black Sabbath to join them since they had recently fired Ozzy Osbourne. In an interview back in the early 80s (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) when he was talking about Sabbath, the musician was asked about Rainbow and praised the singer Graham Bonnet. Also said that Blackmore was probably happier by writing most of the songs on his own since he would make more money.
“I don’t know him personally, I think he is a very fine singer. I think he certainly do a good job. (But) I don’t think Graham is doing very much writing with the band. I was much more involved in the writing. Richie and I did most of the writing for the band. So in Graham’s case I don’t know what his feelings are. Richie is probably happier because he makes more money from publishing,” Ronnie James Dio said.
Ronnie felt like Rainbow as it was meant to be was over when he and other members left. He said that during a conversation with fans in Brazil back in 1992 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). “Richie and I wanted the band to be Rock and Roll with a classical attitude. That’s what we always wanted to be. (But) then when I started the band became the band that was doing songs like “I Surrender” and “Since You Been Gone”, from then on it made no sense to me.”
“That wasn’t the band I was in. It’s not the band that I started with Richie. So I lost all my care for it after that,” Ronnie James Dio said.
Ronnie James Dio and Graham Bonnet met each other
Most of the fans who had the opportunity to know Dio and the musicians who got to work with him, always said that he was a really nice person. He is often praised as someone who always cared about other people and tried to give them the best attention that he could. Unlike many other rockstars, he had no hard feelings towards his replacement in Rainbow.
The singer Graham Bonnet even posted on his social networks in 2021 a photo of him and Dio at a Hollywood Hotel. They spent some time at the pool talking about Rainbow and music. “Here’s a cool pic of Ronnie and me at a Hollywood hotel sitting around the pool talking about Rainbow and rock music in general.”
“I wish Ronnie were still around to see how much of an influence he’s had on so many singers in so many genres. He was a lovely guy with a heart of gold,” Graham Bonnet said.
Graham Bonnet was also invited to join Black Sabbath
Curiously, if you look at Black Sabbath‘s line-ups it’s possible to see they had many musicians who had previously worked with Ritchie Blackmore. They had Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes and Cozy Powell, for example. But they also tried to invite Graham Bonnet to join them.
The musician revealed that in an interview with Classic Album Review in 2023 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). He also praised Dio for his work with the Metal band. “I didn’t think I was (the right choice for the band). Do I look like a Black Sabbath type of guy? I don’t. (I didn’t look like a Rainbow type of guy, either).”
“But Black Sabbath had the hair, the mustaches. I didn’t see (myself there). I didn’t really like their music, I didn’t. There was nothing that attracted me to that at all. Not that they’re not good at what they do. All these bands are so great. But I just didn’t like the music. My taste was elsewhere.”
“When Ronnie came along and joined them it was fantastic for him. They did three albums, I think. Which Ronnie was singing on it and turned that band around. He did great, he really did. So I admire him for doing that. I think Black Sabbath improved their songwriting, I’m sure,” Graham Bonnet said.
I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG