August 1998 was when I first saw Ronnie James Dio.  Iron Maiden had just released their Virtual XI album (the second and final album with Blaze Bayley on vocals) and they were hitting the road with Dio as the supporting act (WASP was supposed to open the show, but dropped off last minute.  Anyways, I digress....).  I was aware of Ronnie Dio, and had heard the "Heaven and Hell" album, but overall, Dio and his music were still pretty new to me.

Being a young and hungry metal head, I was super excited to see Ronnie Dio perform.  Everyone in the venue was ready for Ronnie to take the stage, and that excitement rubbed off on me.  When Ronnie finally walked on stage, he waved to the audience and spent the next hour educating me with songs from his stellar back catalog.

So, what did I think of Dio live?  Let me tell you this; up until that point, I had only heard a few Dio songs.  When he got off the stage, I walked right over to the merchandise stand and purchased a Dio 1998 tour shirt.  I've been a rabid Ronnie fan ever since.

When I woke up on May 16, 2010 and read that Ronnie had died, I thought it was a joke.  The day before, a story broke that Ronnie had died, but his wife quickly issued a statement saying that was not true; Ronnie was alive and well and was in the hospital battling stomach cancer.

The statement Wendy Dio issued on May 16, 2010 was no joke.  Ronnie James Dio, living legend, God of heavy metal, the man who fronted Elf, Black Sabbath, and Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, the guy who wrote Holy f***ing Diver, had passed away.

You don't know what you've got til it's gone. I was a big Dio fan while he was alive, but had taken advantage of that.  I didn't always see Ronnie live, although I did make attempts.  I didn't always buy his new albums, but I did take a few minutes to listen to a track or two online.  Now that he's gone, I regret all those lost opportunities seeing him live, and any album that he released that I didn't own quickly found it's way into my collection.

Ronnie was a true legend, and I miss the hell out of him.  If you put a gun to my head and told me to pick out my favorite Dio song, I couldn't do it.  So many great songs, from his days with Rainbow, Sabbath, and of course, his great solo career.

There are so many great Ronnie songs, that if I had to leave you with just one, it would be the one below.

Long live rock n' roll, and long live Ronnie James Dio!