Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

HEAVY Rotation: Dio’s “Holy Diver”

Posted in Heavy Metal, HEAVY Rotation, Music by Jacob Zinn on July 20, 2011

“Holy Diver” is the title track of Dio’s 1983 debut album and a landmark heavy metal anthem.

Following his stint as Ozzy Osbourne’s replacement in Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio formed Dio in 1982. Having already fronted Elf and Rainbow in the ’60s and ’70s, Dio once again was the frontman, bringing his powerful voice to such classics as “Stand Up and Shout” and “Rainbow in the Dark” off of Holy Diver.

To this day, the song and album artwork are considered controversial. After 9/11, Clear Channel Communications sent a document to more than 1,200 radio stations listing “lyrically questionable” songs, including “Holy Diver.” At the time, renowned heavy metal DJ Eddie Trunk (also of VH1’s That Metal Show) contacted Dio, who was shocked over the uproar some 28 years after the song’s release.

In the 2005 documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Dio spoke of song and the album cover, which appears to show a demon (the band’s mascot, Murray) standing above a cleric wrapped in chains and drowning in the ocean against jagged rocks.

The song ‘Holy Diver’ is not a violent song. It’s actually about a Christ figure in a positive way. I guess maybe a lot of people don’t know that it’s that.

The question was always, ‘Why do you have a monster killing a priest on your album cover?’ My answer always was, because I planned it this way, ‘How do you know that’s not a priest killing a monster?’

Dio is also credited with popularizing the “metal horns” hand gesture in heavy metal culture, which appears to use one’s pinky and index finger as horns. In reality, Dio learned the gesture from his Italian grandmother, who used it to ward off the evil eye when strangers gave her funny looks.

Despite the controversy, Holy Diver is considered one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time. It was certified platinum in the United States and the title track has been covered by Tenacious D, Killswitch Engage, Children of Bodom and Pat Boone.

Yes, Christian gospel musician Pat Boone.

Rest in Peace
Ronnie James Dio
July 10, 1942 ~ May 16, 2010
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