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Dio Documentary Dio: Dreamers Never Die – Wendy Dio, Demian Fenton, Don Argott

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

There have been many incredible musicians that have made their mark in the music industry, but none like Vocalist, Musician Ronnie James Dio. Over his fifty-year career, he enhanced people’s lives with his music and created a space where rock and heavy metal music fans can truly be themselves. Now, all has been documented in a film that was executively produced by Wendy Dio (Dio’s widow and manager), directed by Don Argott and Demian Fenton titled Dio: Dreamers Never Die which is being released worldwide on September 28th and October 2nd. From the start of his career in the 50’s, to fronting his band Elf, then Rainbow, Black Sabbath and then his own DIO, this documentary spotlights the true aspects of how Ronnie James Dio was a truly extraordinarily talented musician, but also an amazing human being.

Catching up with Wendy Dio, Argott and Fenton, they revealed details of how this multi-platinum artist created his music, was looked up to by other musicians, how seriously he held his high morals of working standards and what South Florida fans can look forward to with this film showing at South Florida Cinemark Paradise 24 in Davie, Cinépolis Coconut Grove in Miami and in Jupiter, AMC Sunset Place 24 in South Miami and many other theaters throughout Florida (please see the link below).

SFL Music: What inspired the documentary Dio: Dreamers Never Die? I’ve seen some of the trailers and it looks amazing. How did this all come about?
Wendy Dio: Well, I’ve been asked many, many times for many, many years about doing a document on Ronnie, but it was never the right time, but then BMG came to me and said they wanted to do it. Brought me a bunch of producers, directors to look at, talk to, and then Don and Demian were the only people I was interested in because they were already Dio fans, but they just had a different way of doing the film which is what I wanted. I wanted it to be portrayed as not your usual sex, drugs and rock and roll which most producers just want to do about. You know, have a few people in and out and that’s it, but this is a real story. This is the story of Ronnie’s life and about people not to give up their dreams. It takes you through Ronnie’s whole life and there’s lots of things there that you know, kids have never seen. Fans think they know everything about Ronnie, but they’ll be surprised at some of the things that are in there like a terrible car crash that he had that put him down and you know, most people would have just given up then, but he didn’t. He picked himself up and carried on. So, it’s a very emotional film. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It’s just wonderful and I’m really, really happy with what Don and Demian did with this film because they really made it special, and I think Ronnie would have been really proud of it. I know I am.

SFL Music: What do you hope that people take away from the film? It has like you say, many aspects of his life and a lot about the music that he created and why he did what he did with different projects.
Don Argott: Yeah, I think for us you know, as Dio fans and as people that were involved in kind of encapsulating Ronnie’s story in this film. It’s one of those stories that it’s hard to express growing up listening to this music our whole life and it formed the people that we turned out as adults and you know, it’s really about believing in yourself, and Ronnie’s music is all about empowerment and believing in yourself and persevering through adversity and all those things. These are things that for us growing up as metal kids, obviously always looked at as a marginalized, ostracized group of people that didn’t fit in to the quote, unquote normal parts of society where here we are, you’re finding, we’re trying to kind of like convey the messages that Ronnie imparted to us and this music specifically imparted to us at a very young age, and really helped to form the people that we became, and I think there’s not enough people like Ronnie in the world that exude that kindness. So many people that we’ve talked to for the film and actually doing press for this, some of the beautiful moments of people saying like, I met Ronnie one time and he said something to me and as they’re recounting the story, they’re getting choked up. So, all these things are what we tried to put into the film to make you understand what we have known all along. Demian, you can jump off on that too if you like.
Demian Fenton: Yeah, I think that there’s Ronnie as a figure who empowered us with his music, and then there’s Ronnie the man who walked the walk, and he lived his life in a way that you know, we had hoped he had lived being fans and kind of taking the messages in, but you really learn that he walked the walk, and It’s great to see a story like that these days. I think there’s a lot of negativity in the world. We’ve been obsessed with kind of stories about kind of characters who are behaving poorly, behaving badly, and so it’s really refreshing to see a story like this which is empowering and uplifting.

SFL Music: One thing I noticed in the clip when he did Hear N’ Aid with the amazing group of vocalists, Kevin DuBrow, Don Dokken, Rob Halford, Eric Bloom, Dave Meniketti, and Geoff Tate. When watching that, he appeared to encourage them and was able to draw out the very best of their vocal abilities because they all have that vibrate and range. He seemed to be coaching them. He was like a teacher, an inspiration. Was that just a natural part of who he was, that he was a nurturing type of person?
Dio: Yeah, I agree with that. Absolutely, and everybody looked up to him because it was about of his voice and the way he would do it, but he always would bring the best out of people, totally. Like with Doug Aldrich, he used to say, “oh God, he’s really hard on me” when Doug was in the band, but then afterwards he says, “well you know what? He made me a better player because he pulled the best out me that I didn’t think I even had in me.”
SFL Music: His voice with the vibrate and the range and everything, did he have professional voice lessons?
Dio: No, that was from his trumpet playing days when his father insisted he buy a trumpet at four years old and start with practicing four hours a day, every single day, and so he sang from his breathing technique was what it was all about. He sang from his diaphragm and not from his throat and that’s what the strength of his voice was. I mean obviously, he must have been born with a talent. That was what improved it was the breathing exercises and he knew how to control his voice.

SFL Music: That’s amazing because that’s usually something that singers have to be taught how to do. Is that what drew him to become a musician? What was his inspiration? How did he know he wanted to do that for a career?
Dio: Well, he hated it when he started, having to practice every day, but then he got to love it and enjoy it and go out and play with bands when he was like fifteen, sixteen years old. Then he formed his own band and decided that you know, you can’t pick up girls with trumpet, so he taught himself bass (she laughed). So, then he was the bass player.
Argott: I think one of the other things about the Hear N’ Aid clip that is you know, powerful when you understand the story a little bit more, is that I think a lot of people don’t realize and certainly I didn’t really realize ‘cause Ronnie to us has always been young at heart, you know what I mean? But like you realize that his career really started in the 50’s. So, a lot of these guys, the contemporaries that he was playing with in the 80’s, he was probably like twenty plus years older, so he was very much the elder stateman, the older brother. The guy with all the wisdom because he had been in the industry at that point like twenty years already and a lot of these guys were, even when they were established, like even Rob Halford, his career started in the like mid to late 70’s. So, Ronnie already had almost like a at least a fifteen plus year jump on Rob Halford who you know, was probably the second oldest in that group. So, I think a lot of people looked up. Ronnie had already had established himself with two incredible careers at that point with Rainbow and Black Sabbath. I’m sure everybody in there was probably like shitting their pants that they were in the same room with a legend at that point, you know what I mean?

SFL Music: Yes. He just got the word out there to form that, but did he have particular people that he definitely wanted to be on that project?
Dio: Well, originally Jimmy Bain brought the idea and Vivian Campbell to Ronnie about it and then Ronnie took the reins from there. We called a few people, but after we called just a couple of people, everybody wanted to be involved. So, it was very easy and everybody that was anybody was involved in that at the time.

SFL Music: It was mentioned that he felt strongly that this genre of rock and roll could do the same as the others were for the famine that was happening at that time. Were there any other charities that he felt strongly about or was involved in?
Dio: Well, he was very involved in Children of the Night which was sex abuse and runaway kids. He was very involved with lots of animal charities, especially Brittany Foundation. He did a lot of different things with a lot of different charities.

SFL Music: A lot of his fans contribute to charities in his name. Is there anything in particular to mention?
Dio: Well, we have our own charity that I have fourteen board members which is the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. We don’t take any money for administration costs. Everybody’s volunteer. We have no employees. Everyone’s just you know, gives a dollar, that dollar’s gonna go into research for cancer because it’s a terrible disease that we have to find a cure for. So, that’s our main charity. Obviously, I still do the dog charities, but our main charity is the cancer one because it’s such a dreadful disease. It touches everyone.

SFL Music: This is true. Hopefully we do find a cure. The clip with his song “The Last in Line”, he was such an inspiration with his lyrics and just his thought process was amazing, very intelligent. With that song he had the idea that “imagine if you are all in a line from birth to death. What if you were the last in line?” Where did he get these inspirations from?
Dio: He was a really avid book reader. He read books like, read a book in a day, day and a half, all the time. Every day he read books and I think he got inspiration from different books and different things. He loved science fiction. He loved fantasy books. He loved you know, bios. He loved reading. He just loved people too. I mean, that was just the way he was.
Fenton: I think too as a fan you felt that he respected you as a fan. He didn’t look at metal heads as dummies. He looked as us as people with a head on our shoulders, and as a fan you took that in. I was in fifth grade when I started listening to Dio and reading those lyrics and kind of hearing the way he delivered them in this stage like manner, all powerful. It was epic. It was deep and that doesn’t come unless you respect the intellect of your fans.
Dio: I agree.

SFL Music: What would you say Don and Demian, that you learned from him that would inspire you in your careers?
Argott: I’d just say like we’ve talked about this a lot, but I mean, this is our pandemic project. It was a project that we started prior to the pandemic and kind of worked on it throughout that process and we didn’t have to look far for strength and for inspiration because at every turn, when things got hard and you would get frustrated, you just wanted to keep everything moving, and oh, we can’t get on a plane and we can’t do an interview or whatever. Ronnie really provided the whole time. Like he was telling us exactly what we needed to do. It was just like, take your time. You know this is gonna happen. You know you can’t rush it. It was like all the things that we needed. Frankly, all the way up until even now. We would get in these situations where things don’t work out the way you want ‘em to all the time or you have expectations that aren’t met, but somebody like Ronnie at like the low point in his career when you know, the guy that was playing stadiums in the 80’s, is now playing clubs in the mid 90’s. It didn’t matter. He still went. He still gave it the same intensity and the same professionalism as he would if he was singing to a stadium crowd verses a small crowd. So, I think those are all the things that are a good constant reminder that like you never give up. Always push through. Always keep it going and I think that was our kind of north star. Ronnie was, as we were making the film, his messages were really helping us get by.
Fenton: I really do attribute heavy metal, rock and roll, punk music. I just give it so much credit for where I landed today. I mean, to make films and to believe in yourself enough to make movies as a career, and to take the chances that it takes to do that. I want to say that people like Ronnie and the music I listen to and that the messages of do your thing. Don’t care what anybody else thinks about it. Try to do it as best you can. Never give up and if you do end up getting to the top, be cool once you get there. That’s completely Ronnie. So, that is the shining light.

SFL Music: Is that the type of advice you’d give to up-and-coming artists?
Argott: Only people that we like (he laughed).

SFL Music: Great answer! Was there anything in particular you found more moving or meaningful in the documentary personally?
Fenton: There’s so much meaningful stuff in there. I mean, you’re talking to Don and I. We basically got to go meet a bunch of our heroes to talk about one of our heroes, and Wendy was so kind to like let us into this world with open arms. I mean, there’s so many moments I’ll never forget. You know, sitting in Ronnies house with Wendy. Going through the old beta tapes of Hear N’ Aid. Drinking a beer out of the glass that I saw Ronnie drink out of in the Hard ‘N Heavy video when I was a kid. So, there’s so many memories and so many moments that were just totally surreal.
Dio: And being in Rob’s house.
Fenton: Being in Rob Halford’s house. Hanging out with Lita Ford. She breaks out the double neck BC Rich from “Close My Eyes Forever” and she puts her arm around me while I have it on. I mean, that’s a twelve-year-old head explosion for me.
(Everyone laughs)
Dio: She’s such a doll.

SFL Music: How did they come to be involved?
Argott: It was the easiest ask when you’re doing a film about Ronnie James Dio. Like hey, you want to be in a documentary to talk about how much you love Ronnie James Dio? It was hard to pair it down, the list. Obviously, Ronnie lived such a full life and touched so many people across so many years. He’s had multiple careers all going all the way back to the 50’s. So, we wanted to talk to people that obviously knew Ronnie very well because you could end up talking to a hundred people of all the people that had great stuff to say about Ronnie, but we really wanted to pair it down and talk to the people that were closest to him and the closest to get to Ronnie obviously, because we couldn’t talk to Ronnie directly. So, that was our goal.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you want people to know about the documentary (Dio: Dreamers Never Die) to definitely check it out?
Argott: Please go see it. I think one of the cool things about the way that we’re releasing this, we’re working with this company Trafalgar who does these kind of event screenings, and I think in this day and age with so many films out there, so many T.V. shows out there, so many streaming services out there, it is a little bit difficult to kind of like you know, have your film kind of break through all that especially if it’s not a two hundred-million-dollar block buster, super hero movie. So, the fact of working with a company that is creating an event around this film, it’s almost like a way that we can all gather together you know, like we would go to a Dio show and have a shared experience with celebrating Ronnie’s life and his music and his legacy. So, I’m really excited for just all the metal heads and like-minded fans around the world to be able to congregate again in like one spot and have this great shared emotional experience. I think it’s gonna be awesome!
Fenton: This is a super hero movie!
Argott: It is a super hero movie, yeah.

Fenton: A real life super hero.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you’d like to add Wendy?
Dio: I hope the fans enjoy the film. We made it for the fans and we hope they see even more of Ronnie that they didn’t know about, and they enjoy it and have a really fun evening. We did it with love and we hope everyone loves it.

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