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Why Ronnie James Dio left Rainbow and never rejoined the band


Why Ronnie James Dio left Rainbow and never rejoined the band

The late legendary singer Ronnie James Dio first met Ritchie Blackmore when his early band Elf toured with Deep Purple as their opening act in the 70s. Although they were on the road for months together, Blackmore always was more recluse so they didn’t have enough contact. But a few years later in 1975, the guitarist decided to leave Purple and form a new group, inviting Dio to be the vocalist. The result was Rainbow, which became one of the most influential Rock bands of all time.


Ronnie recorded three albums with the band: “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” (1975), “Rising” (1976) and “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (1978). He co-wrote almost all the songs from those albums with Blackmore and they were really successful. But why did Ronnie James Dio decide to leave Rainbow?

Why Ronnie James Dio left Rainbow in the late 70s

Even though the band was doing quite well in the late 70s, Ritchie Blackmore wanted to leave all the lyrics about wizards and dragons behind, focusing more on love songs that could make them more commercial. Dio and other members didn’t agree with that and the result was a complete change of the line-up, with only Cozy Powell staying for the next phase of the band.
In an interview back in the early 80s (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), Dio recalled the reason why he left Rainbow. “I wasn’t really happy with the direction the music was going. We started the band with a concept in mind and that concept got lost along the way. So I decided to just pop off, that would be the best thing for me.”

He continued:


“Luckly in the interim between leaving Rainbow and sorting out another career or sort, I was fortunate enough to meet Terry (Geezer) and Tony (Iommi) and we got this (Black Sabbath) together,” Ronnie James Dio said.
Although the late singer said that he decided to leave the group, his widow and ex-manager Wendy Dio told Greg Prato in his book “The Other Side of Rainbow” that he was actually fired by Blackmore. “He got fired. You don’t have much choice there. I think Ronnie saw it coming. Ronnie was fired from the band – for not writing more commercial songs. I don’t think that would ever come up. It just sounds ridiculous,” Wendy Dio said.
Dio left the band in 1979 and was then invited by Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward to join Black Sabbath. The British band had recently fired Ozzy Osbourne and was looking for a new singer. It was the next step in Dio’s career, which not only helped him to survive but also Black Sabbath. The albums “Heaven & Hell” (1980) and “Mob Rules” (1981) were really important for them.

Why Dio believed Rainbow was never the same after he left

After almost all the classic members of Rainbow were out, Ritchie Blackmore could easily take the direction he wanted. He invited the keyboardist Don Airey, bassist Roger Glover and singer Graham Bonnet to join the band. With that line-up they recorded “Down to Earth” (1979), which had many hits, since it sounded more commercial and had many love songs. Bonnet lasted only one album and was replaced by Joe Lynn Turner, who recorded three successful records with Rainbow. But of course, all of them had a more commercial sound.

During a conversation with fans in Brazil back in 1992 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), Dio said that Rainbow was not the band he formed with Blackmore anymore. “Ritchie 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 the band I started was doing songs like ‘I Surrender’ and ‘Since You Been Gone’, from then on it made no sense to me.”

He continued:

“That wasn’t the band I was in. It’s not the band that I started with Ritchie. So I lost all my careful for it after that. He was just a cruel man, a cruel person. The things he did to Tony Carey (Keyboards) are unbelievable. He just did so many horrible things to Tony, almost to the point of killing him,” Ronnie James Dio said.
Although he didn’t like what the band did after he left, Dio was thankful for the opportunity Blackmore gave him. He also said in the conversation that he had many amazing memories with the group and learned a lot from the guitarist. But Dio said he learned especially what not to do, because there were many things he didn’t like.
“I have wonderful memories of that time (in Rainbow). It may seem as I’m very bitter about Ritchie (Blackmore), I’m not bitter about Ritchie at all. He gave me my great opportunity. Without him it would have take me a little bit longer to be where I am today. I mean, I’m not gonna give him all the credit because I’m good in what I do.”

He continued:

“But he gave me my chance and I learned so much from him. I really learned so much from him. I learned good things and bad things. So I learned what not to do. I learned that when you come out of the show you don’t spit at your fans, you don’t run into the car and go away from them. Don’t be mean to your fans, that’s the thing I learned because that’s what Ritchie did all the time, really a bad person. But he’s a great musician, I learned what works and what doesn’t work with music.”
“So I can only say that it was a wonderful time in my life. I learned so much. I saw the world for the very first time, all of the world in Rainbow. It just got more difficult, more, more difficult, because Ritchie is a very difficult person. He doesn’t care about people and I do. So it made difficult for me to be me,” Ronnie James Dio said.
After his successful time with Black Sabbath in the early 80s, the singer left the Heavy Metal group in 1982 and formed his own band Dio. Besides selling millions of records with his own band, in the early 90s Dio reunited again with Black Sabbath. Also from 2006 until his death in 2010 toured and recorded with Heaven & Hell, which was a Sabbath spin-off band with Geezer, Iommi and Appice.

Why he never rejoined Rainbow again

It doesn’t matter how bad was the fight was between band members, usually a huge amount of money offered for a band reunion can make them be friends again. However, that never happened with Rainbow, since Ronnie James Dio never performed again with Ritchie Blackmore. He explained the reason why he never got back to the band again, something that he did twice with Black Sabbath, if count the band Heaven & Hell as kind of a reunion too.

As Dio told Metal Express in 1996 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), he didn’t feel like Blackmore had progressed in its songwriting and was trying to make the same album over and over. That was the reason why he didn’t want to rejoin Rainbow again.

“We don’t make the same kind of music. I am an experimenter, I like to try different things. I think this album (“Angry Machines” – 1996) will show that. This is a very different album for us, a much more modern album than the other things we’ve done before. But Ritchie continuously seems to make the same album to me. Seems to be searching for what he had when he let go the best thing that he probably ever had and that was the first band with Jimmy (Bain) and myself, or Bob Daisley, Cozy Powell and Tony Carey.”

Ronnie James Dio continued:

“He seems to be continually trying to make that same kind of music and I’m not having a go at Ritchie for it. Good for him, whatever he wants to do he needs to do. But for my own sake, I need the experiment, I need to take steps forward and not just take steps backward or to remain in place. So I don’t think it ever could possibly work. You know, I never close the door to it, there’s always the chance that something like that could happen.”

“In fact we are doing some shows together in America in November, with Rainbow and Dio. So if that means anything at all, it means that Ritchie and I don’t hate each other. I never have hated Ritchie and I know he’s never hated me. We’ve always had nothing but good things or nothing at all to say about each other. There’s never been a problem. (…) Again, I try to be an innovator as much as I can within the traditional bounds that the kind of Heavy Metal I make has allowed me.”

He continued:

“Ritchie has not taken those steps forward, so I could never see myself going back to do that again. I just don’t want to rewrite ‘Rainbow Rising” or ‘Long Live Rock N’ Roll’. But as I say I will not close the door if Ritchie was willing to make some changes and the circumstances were right I perhaps might consider it but at this particular point I’m never going to find a band as good as or a guitar player (Tracy G) as good as the one I’m playing now, or one that makes me happier, that’s for sure,” Ronnie James Dio said.

The singer passed away in 2010 at the age of 67, a victim of stomach cancer.

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

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