Anyone who has ever truly loved someone knows there is nothing that could ever fill the void of their loss. The bitter reality of life, thankfully in sorrow can come an avenue for a greater good, internally as well as externally, and Wendy Dio is the proof. Six years removed from her late husband Ronnie James Dio’s tragic passing due to a fight with stomach cancer, Wendy continues to strive to find hope for others as she prepares for the third annual Ride For Ronnie event benefiting the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, taking place on Sunday, May 7, 2017.
A celebration of the legacy of Rock-n-Roll legend Ronnie James Dio, the event will feature an exciting lineup of music and family events. The best part of it all, all funds go to research to help eradicate the terrible disease that is cancer. Recently we caught up with Wendy to talk her life in Rock-n-Roll, the details of the Ride For Ronnie, hopes for a brighter future, the true personality of Ronnie James Dio, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll for many years now.
Wendy Dio – (Laughs) Many, many years, yes!
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Yes, and you have managed bands, and as everyone knows, were married to the late, great Ronnie James Dio. Through the ups and downs of working in the Rock-n-Roll world, how would you describe your wild journey?
Wendy Dio – Well, you know, I started off working for Dekkor Records in London, then I worked for a booking agency, and I’ve worked for many attorneys with contracts, so it’s all round abound with that. When I started managing Ronnie, a lot of people went, “Oh, she’s just married to him and she’s doesn’t know what she’s doing!” not knowing that I had a previous background in the music industry. I think when I started, it was in the ‘80s, there was really only Sharon Osbourne – which was Sharon Arden at the time – and myself were the only female managers. I think a lot of times the men would be completely unhelpful or sometimes they would be very helpful; they were kind of judging us that maybe we shouldn’t be doing this. Well, as it appeared, women seem to be very good managers because they seem to be able to multi-task and do a lot of things that sometimes men can’t do.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, absolutely. Obviously we have seen great strides in gender equality over the years – even in the music industry – which is positive, as well.
Wendy Dio – Right. Management is something that is really something you can’t learn from a textbook or a seminar. You can learn some things from seminars and textbooks, but you really have to be in there because every band is different; everyone has a different way of dealing with musicians and every band is different.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed completely. Now, as you stated, you were by Ronnie’s side for a great deal of both your lives and losing a loved one is never easy; no one is ever prepared for that. That said, eight years since Ronnie’s passing, he still has a tremendous fan following. Is it fulfilling to see his legacy continue to shine on?
Wendy Dio – Oh, absolutely! I spend my whole life trying to keep his memory and his music alive. Also, of course, we started a charity to raise money for cancer, which is the horrible disease that took him from us; but also to keep his memory and his music alive.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and as you said, helping his legacy stay strong – as well as bring awareness to the terrible disease of cancer – you have this charity, The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up & Shout Cancer Fund, that is hosting its Third Annual Motorcycle Rally & Concert on May 7th. What has it been like putting this special event together year after year?
Wendy Dio – It’s a lot of hard work! (Laughs) A lot of hard work, but it’s also very heartwarming to see how many of the musicians – and everybody behind the scenes – give their time and their talent for it; you know, nobody gets paid, everybody does this for the love of Ronnie and to make money for the cancer fund. It amazes me how these people come and they give their time and their talent, not just the musicians but the people who are in production; the people that help rig the stage; the people who donate the stage; the people that donate the sound; the people that donate everything. All the things: the staging, the barriers, everything that comes in. Even the police, a lot of the police officers donate their time. We have a police escort with the motorcycles! It’s just amazing to see how many people have the love for Ronnie. He’s been past, it will be seven years this year, and I still have two-and-half million people on his Facebook.
CrypticRock.com – Wow! It really is amazing and it is great to see that so many people still care. Now, as far as cancer awareness and assisting in discovering better treatments – hopefully even a cure – that is a great thing and very important. As you have been working towards this since you lost Ronnie, do you feel strides are being made in science and medicine to nullify this disease?
Wendy Dio – Absolutely! Breast cancer has come a long, long way; it’s not the death warrant it used to be. We deal mostly with gastric cancers – which is stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. There’s not a lot of money being spent on research for these particular diseases, and a lot more people are dying of these diseases. A lot of these are men’s disease: the reason, I think, is because men do not get checked like women do. Women are usually pretty good about being checked. Men, you have to drag them there and plead with them to get checked. The message we try to give out is early detection saves live.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is very important to get checked. Now as far as your event, you have a lot of great acts performing, ranging from Lynch Mob, to Eddie Money, to Dio’s Disciples, among many others. That said, nearly everyone has been affected in one way or another by cancer. Do you find that people who are participating share with you their own stories about their fight with cancer with friends and family?
Wendy Dio – Absolutely, absolutely! Cancer doesn’t care who it takes: they’ll take you if you’re rich or poor, famous or not famous! They don’t care! This horrible disease has taken so many people from us: our mothers, our brothers, our sisters, our idols. This cancer disease is horrible and we have to find a cure! One day we will find a cure. I don’t know if it will be in my lifetime, but we’ll do as much as possible that we can. Right now we’re working with Dr. Wong at UCLA, and he’s developing a saliva test where you can go to – will be able to go to once he develops it – [you will be able to] go to your regular doctor for a check-up and they will give you a saliva test that’s sent away and it comes back…then they proceed and if you get early detection, they can get rid of it. It’s like when Ronnie was finally diagnosed, it was Stage 4 and that was a death warrant.
CrypticRock.com – It is really kind of terrifying that you can just suddenly be diagnosed as Stage 4 like that, and that’s obviously the worst diagnosis there is. You feel fine and all of a sudden there it is!
Wendy Dio – Well, it’s not exactly like that. If I knew what I know now, I think we maybe could have saved Ronnie. He had been having stomach problems and everyone said, “Oh, it’s indigestion.” I actually took him to a specialist about seven years before he passed away and they gave him a heart test, they gave all these tests. Had I known what I know now, I would have insisted he have a colonoscopy because that’s how you can tell. A lot of people over 50 should do that! We didn’t know because we had no idea, we just trusted the doctor and said, “Oh, you know, it’s indigestion” and kept taking Tums and things. Finally, my doctor, who is not a specialist in cancer, he’s a General Practitioner…Ronnie was having really bad pains and he’d just come back off the tour, and I took him over there and they did a blood test. He said, “Oh my goodness, I think you need to go get a colonoscopy to find out what’s going on.” That’s when we discovered he had Stage 4 cancer.
CrypticRock.com – Truly tragic. Different types of cancers have different symptoms; some hide a little more than others.
Wendy Dio – Yeah. Actually, those cancers I mentioned, most of those – except for the prostate…The prostate you usually get early signs of that, but the other ones – the stomach cancer – is kind of like a secret and it just carries on, going and going and spreading over the body until it just takes over; but you don’t really get a lot of symptoms until the end.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, truly awful indeed. Though, it is great that you have the foundation and these events to help raise awareness and money, which are both so very important. Also, people get to remember Ronnie, which is very special.
Wendy Dio – Absolutely, absolutely! To keep his memory and his music alive and to have some fun! We’re going to have some fun on the 7th of May with all these people we’ve got. We’ve got Eddie Trunk hosting once again: he’s a great supporter and he’s actually a great support of Metal music and of the genre. He’s been such a supporter of the music for so many years, and he was such a good friend of Ronnie’s. All these great bands we have, we also have a raffle going on. We have a live auction, silent auction. We have food vendors, we have beer and wine. We have a jumbo set of booths; we have booths, vendors selling things. It’s actually a very fun afternoon for the family to come out.
CrypticRock.com – Fantastic! Eddie Trunk has certainly been one of the faces of Metal as a disc jockey and obviously VH1’s That Metal Show for many years now. It is exciting he among others are involved.
Wendy Dio – We just had Steven Adler [former Guns N’ Roses drummer] added…He’s going to do an all-star jam…I think Jeff Pilson [Foreigner, ex-Dokken] is coming, Lita Ford. They’re going to do an all-star jam, as well, so that will be a fun thing as well; we just added that, it’s not on our postcard because he just came in at the last minute and said, “Hey, you want me to do something? Shall I sing some Guns N’ Roses songs?” I said, “Yeah, absolutely!”
CrypticRock.com – Very good! That is exciting to have such a wonderful cast of people there.
Wendy Dio – Exactly! You know, as I said, these musicians, they are the best people in the world. They give such…Sometimes I don’t even have to ask people, they come to me and say, “What can we do? What can we do?” It’s great! They were all friends of Ronnie’s and Ronnie was just a great, super human-being that loved people and loved his fans.
CrypticRock.com – Actually, Ronnie was known by his fans as a sort of larger than life figure, a man that truly cared about others. Is the fair assessment of his character?
Wendy Dio – Absolutely! He cared about people, he loved people. He never forgot where he was and how those fans put him there; and if it wasn’t for them, he wouldn’t be where he’d been.
CrypticRock.com – A lot of people have a lot of fond memories of it all! Now you had put out a tribute record in 2014, Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life, and you produced the record. Anthrax was on it, amongst many others. It is a very cool tribute. That said, can we expect any future releases in honor of Ronnie, perhaps a box set?
Wendy Dio – We’ve been talking. It won’t come out this year but we’ve been talking about re-releasing the Hear ‘N Aid video and CD, and maybe adding some people on that. We did an album before and we did the one song, “Stars,” which actually Rough Cutt will be performing with a bunch of people at the ride this year. So we started thinking, why don’t we do something more with that; we can make a tribute record again but include that as part of the Hear ‘N Aid with stars.
CrypticRock.com – That is something to look forward to. Fans always enjoy special editions of things and box sets. The true fans really like to collect these things, so that is great.
Wendy Dio – Oh yeah. The tribute record was something that I kind of started, I asked Glenn Hughes – who was one of Ronnie’s best friends – and he said, “Oh yeah, I’d love to do that!” Then I asked Rob Halford – who was a great friend of Ronnie’s – and he said “Yes, of course!” All of a sudden everybody came in and Metallica said, “We’re not too late to be included, are we?” I said “Of course not!” (Laughs) Everybody…Motörhead, Anthrax, Scorpions. All these people were suddenly like…Wow! They all wanted to be included, it was just great. It was a joy to work with everybody; and it was just a fun thing and it’s still selling. It will continue to sell and continue to make money for the cancer fund, because all the money goes to the cancer fund.
CrypticRock.com – That is the best part about it, so most important part as well.
Wendy Dio – Everybody gave their time and their talent, there was no money paid out to anybody. Except the record label, of course! They always take their cut! (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Right. Well, it is exciting to hear that everyone came together like that. Now, I have one last question for you, CrypticRock.com covers all types of music, as well as films, particularly Horror and Science Fiction. If you are a fan of either the Horror or Sci-Fi, do you have any favorite films in those genres?
Wendy Dio – Wow, yes, I do. I love the Science Fiction movies and all that stuff. I mean, Ronnie was a great Science Fiction fan; he read Science Fiction all the time. In fact, I think a lot of his ideas, songs came from reading Science Fiction books. We were involved in 1981’s Heavy Metal, as well, which was way before its time. We did a song for that. That was something that Ronnie wanted to write a book about that; he was writing a book when he passed away. He was wanting to write a Science Fiction book, too.