Heavy metal music icon Ronnie James Dio would have been 72 today. I don’t think he could have imagined that a 250 kilogram likeness would have been dedicated in his honor just five months after his death in 2010.
The statue, which emerges from a large rock to rise two meters into the sky, has pride of place near the center of the main park in Kavarna, Bulgaria, a city of about 12,000 on the Black Sea coast. It’s part of a heavy metal-themed urban beautification project spearheaded by the city’s mayor Tsonko Tsonev, whose missions include turning his hometown into Bulgaria’s hard rock capital. Part of the project includes a series of murals painted on the city’s apartment buildings that depict heavy metal legends. I posted a gallery here last year; check it out if you’re dying to see a two-story high mural of Billy Idol, Tarja Turunen, Glenn Hughes or Dio, among others.
The memorial, designed by Alexander Petrov and Krasimir Krastev-Lomski, doesn’t show the finger horn gesture –index and pinky fingers pointing out from a clenched fist– Dio is largely credited with having popularized. Nor does he appear to be singing. Instead he stands with a microphone in hand as though he’s delivering a lecture, or taking part in a Q&A.
I respected his powerful vocal abilities but his style never quite suited my tastes so I was never a big fan. But learning of the statue’s existence was reason enough to seek it out when a working visit to Kavarna arose. I liked what I found, a sincere memorial that’s very much at home in a city park setting. To the left, retired men smoked cigarettes and played chess. Straight on it faced a playground where children took turns on a slide. I wondered briefly why the parks of my youth didn’t include monuments to pop culture icons.
Born Ronnie James Padavona on 10 July 1942, he was already using the stage name Dio by 1960, well before he first attracted wider attention as the vocalist and lyricist for Rainbow in the early 1970s. He left the band in 1979; a chance meeting in Los Angeles with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi eventually led to his job as the band’s front man, replacing the fired Ozzy Osbourne.
That relationship lasted until differences forced a split in 1982; from then on he was primarily the driving force for what was simply known as Dio, a band whose various configurations recorded ten albums through 2004. In 2006 he again teamed with former Black Sabbath bandmates Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinnie Appice to tour as Heaven and Hell, the name of the first Sabbath release of the band’s Dio era.
By the time he died from stomach cancer on May 16, 2010, he sold more than 47 million albums over a career that spanned fifty years. Six photos of the memorial below, along with a map of Kavarna.
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