Katie Couric may not mention it tonight, but head-banging just lost one of its greats: Ronnie James Dio, lead singer for such bands as Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio, passed away at age 67. He had the perfect voice for a particular brand of heavy metal, the one that spent a lot of time on occult imagery, swooping vocals, and somewhat ridiculous lyrics. The bands Dio sang for were the kind mocked in This Is Spinal Tap ("Stonehenge, where the demons dwell/Where the banshees live, and they do live well"), and yes, it was all kind of silly. But in retrospect, sort of sweet, too.
As the obituaries have noted, Dio took credit for making the "devil's horns" symbol the universal sign of "Rock n' roll! Yeah!" He said he got it from his Italian grandmother, who used to make the sign to ward off the evil eye, and he figured if he was singing about Satan, it seemed appropriate. Wikipedia, however, documents some pre-Dio musical appearances of the gesture. In any case, Dio was outspoken in maintaining its proper usage, particularly the fact that if you put your thumb out in addition to your pinky and index finger, you're doing it wrong.
As a teenage Rainbow fan, I spent more than a few hours listening to Dio wail around Ritchie Blackmore's lengthy guitar solos. So here's to you, Ronnie! Rock 'n roll! Yeah!
-- Paul Waldman