Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has penned a moving tribute to Ronnie James Dio, while rock stars including Slash and Ozzy Osbourne have also honored the rocker, who died on Sunday, May 16. The heavy metal legend lost his battle with stomach cancer at a hospital in Houston, Texas, aged 67, and his contemporaries have been quick to celebrate the life of the Heaven & Hell star.
Ulrich has written a moving tribute to Dio, who he credits with inspiring him to become a drummer. He says, "Dear Ronnie, I just got off stage in Zagreb. I was met with the news that you've passed on. I'm kind of in shock, but I wanted you to know that you were one of the main reasons I made it onto that stage to begin with."
"When I first saw you in Elf, opening for Deep Purple in 1975, I was completely blown away by the power in your voice, your presence on stage, your confidence, and the ease with which you seemed to connect to 6,000 Danish people and one starry-eyed 11 year old."
Ulrich also opens up about his poignant first meeting with Dio as a 13 year old: "In the fall of 1976, when you played your first show in Copenhagen, I was literally in the front row and the couple of times we made eye contact you made me feel like the most important person in the world... I made the pilgrimage to the Plaza Hotel to see if I could somehow grab a picture, an autograph, a moment, anything."
"A few hours later you came out and were so kind and caring... I was on top of the world, inspired and ready for anything. Over the years I've been fortunate enough to run into you a half dozen times or so and each time you were as kind, caring and gracious as you were in 1976 outside the hotel."
He calls their first gig together in 2007 "a f**king honor and a dream come true" and wishes he had called Dio in his final days: "I kind of p**sied out, thinking the last thing you needed in your recovery was feeling obligated to take a phone call from a Danish drummer/fan boy. I wish I'd made that call."
The members of KISS have also released a statement, which reads: "We mourn the tragic passing of the great Ronnie James Dio. In addition to his powerhouse vocal ability, Ronnie was a true gentleman who always emanated great warmth and friendship to us and everyone around him. We will miss him."
In a post on his Facebook page, Slash writes, "Ronnie died at 7.45am this morning, but his music will live for eternity", while Osbourne, who Dio replaced in Black Sabbath in 1979, says simply on his Twitter.com page: "Rest in Peace Ronnie."