The Rainbow Mythos: The Songcraft of Ronnie James Dio

December 13, 2023 Elijah Perseus Blumov
The Rainbow Mythos: The Songcraft of Ronnie James Dio
Show Notes Transcript

Songs discussed in The Rainbow Mythos include:


Tarot Woman (lyrics here)

Rainbow Eyes (lyrics here)

Catch The Rainbow (lyrics here)

The Man On The Silver Mountain (lyrics here)

The Temple Of The King (lyrics here)

Stargazer (lyrics here)

A Light In The Black (lyrics here)


Topics discussed include:

Brian Brodeur's new book, Some Problems With Autobiography

Katie Hartsock's new book, Wolf Trees

My episode on Brian Brodeur

Poetry lyric vs. Song lyric

Poetic vs. Mythopoetic

C.S. Lewis on George Macdonald

Juke-box musicals

A brief history of the mighty Dio

An Angel Is Missing by Ronnie and the Redcaps

Elf, Deep Purple, Rainbow, and Ritchie Blackmore

Black Sabbath, Dio, and Heaven & Hell

The rainbow motif

The myth of Icarus

The tragedy of civilization

The wheel keeps turning

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Supported in part by The Ohio Poetry Association
Art by David Anthony Klug

List of the most common metrical feet:
Iamb: weak-STRONG (u /)
Trochee: STRONG-weak (/ u)
Anapest: weak-weak-STRONG (u u /)
Amphibrach: weak-STRONG-weak (u / u)
Dactyl: STRONG-weak-weak (/ u u)
Cretic: STRONG-weak-STRONG (/ u /)
Pyrrhic: weak-weak (u u)
Spondee: STRONG-STRONG (/ /)

Versecraft: The Rainbow Mythos: The Songcraft of Ronnie James Dio



            This special and unusual episode is dedicated to my best friend David, who has been hounding me to tackle this subject for months, and to master Ian Hilbert, who is currently celebrating his 8th birthday and is a huge Dio fan. For all the rest of you loyal listeners, I promise you I will get back to Versecraft proper next week, but I hope you enjoy this brief excursion into the realm of songcraft, featuring the man, the myth, the myth-maker, the legend, the supreme god of heavy metal, Ronnie James Dio. 

            Before we begin, I’d like to give a shout-out to Brian Brodeur, whom you may recognize from a previous episode I did on his ingenious and moving poem, “To An Absence,” and Katie Hartsock, two wonderful poets whom I recently had the pleasure of hosting a reading for at Loganberry Books. The three of us had a lovely conversation after the reading, and to these poets I’d just like to say that I’m so glad I had the opportunity to meet and get to know both of you, and I hope we get to do something again soon. Brian and Katie both have excellent recent books which you should check out, and which I will link to in the show notes. 

            As always, if you enjoy this episode, please consider leaving me a tip, becoming a paying subscriber, or purchasing some Versecraft merch, all of which you can find at links in the show notes. Otherwise, please continue to share the show around with people that you think might enjoy it. If you like what you hear, there’s a good chance someone else might like it too, so don’t be shy! 

            Though songwriting is typically outside the purview of this show, it is interesting that this should be so— after all, the genre of lyric, the primary genre of poetry I discuss, is directly descended from the songwriting tradition, as the word “lyric” attests. In the original Aristotelian sense, a “lyric” was a metrical composition written to accompany the music of a lyre or some other comparable instrument, and of course we retain the usage of the word “lyrics” to refer to the texts of songs to this day. Following the urbane literary turn of the Hellenistic period, Roman poets like Catullus and Horace were the first to consistently adapt Greek songwriting forms, both lyric and elegiac, to a non-musical, purely literary context. 

Much later, in the High Middle Ages of the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, the lyric regained its intimate connection with music in the verses of the troubadours and trouveres, the famous swashbuckling bards of France who wrote incredibly intricate love poetry to accompany their musical performances, and who, through their fecund technical inventiveness, laid the groundwork for the entire modern lyric tradition, establishing forms like the sonnet, rondeau, and villanelle, which are still in use today. Much as today’s live music scene has suffered a tremendous blow in the wake of the pandemic, the troubadour tradition more or less died out after the horrors of the Black Death, and it was at this point that songwriting and poetry began to diverge once again, a movement encouraged by the new Renaissance desire to imitate the Roman classics and establish a literary high culture. 

Nevertheless, there were many exceptions to this trend, and mileage varied by region. If we jump to 17th century England, we still find that poets often play double duty as songwriters—Shakespeare famously wrote not only sonnets to be read, but little songs to be sung in his plays, and several notable poets of the Elizabethan age, including Thomas Campion and John Dowland, were equally if not more celebrated as composers of songs to accompany their lyrics. Later, the neoclassicism of the 18th century effectively killed off the lyric impulse in much of Europe, yet by the end of that century we again see the resurgence of song-poetry in the border ballads of Robert Burns and the emerging genre of art song or lieder in German Classical music. When 19th century Romanticism revived the lyric poem as the form du jour, it had the paradoxical effect of both increasing interest in poetry as songwriting, especially in the context of folk traditions, yet also solidifying lyric poetry as a fully separate genre in its own right. 

The most profound break however came in the early 20th century, due to two major new forces: literary modernism and popular music. Literary modernism, which saw the poetic project as a series of experiments in existential liberation, a somber inquiry into the bleakness of life, and a probing of the dark recesses of human consciousness, viewed overt lyricism— meter and rhyme included— as both superficial and wholly inappropriate to the times. This despite the curious adoration which figures like Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot ravished on the French troubadours. Poetry ceased to concern itself with song, and songwriting in turn ceased to receive the attention of poets. 

Historically, the two main streams of music in Western culture have been Classical music and folk music. Both of these streams have, when they included sung words, heavily relied on poetry for their material. The mass media of the 20th century however produced a third and overwhelming stream—pop music. Rising out of a synthesis of showtunes, vaudeville, Jazz, and blues, and later transforming in the advent of rock ‘n roll, techno, Hip-Hop, and many other genres, pop music largely abandoned poetry for an informal style of prose lyric writing that embraced accessibility and flexibility.  This new, looser style not only boasted the conversational ease which prose offers, but because prose lyrics had no rhythmic pattern of their own, they could be more easily molded to suit the variety and catchiness of musical patterns. Rhyme of course was largely if loosely retained for reasons of sheer pleasure, and is still mostly retained to this day. Hip-Hop lyrics, which are usually composed non-metrically but with intense rhythmic and linguistic effects in mind, present an intriguing middle ground between poetry and modern songwriting. Rappers, musicians who seek to use their specifically verbal prowess to attain fame, fortune, and sexual attention, are at the very least the closest equivalent to troubadours that we have had in a long time. 

The chief downside of the pop-music method of writing lyrics, including Hip-Hop lyrics, is that unlike poems, such lyrics can almost never stand on their own as literary objects. Without music to give them a rhythmic backbone and the aesthetic illusion of profundity, they are revealed on the page as the squishy, repetitious, and usually banal bits of prose that they are. Because literary mediocrity has always been the norm in pop music, the bar for being a “good songwriter” in this realm is lower than people often realize. It was for this reason that there was so much outrage surrounding the decision to award Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in literature—Dylan is pretty good for a modern songwriter, but he’s nowhere near anything like a great poet. Even Paul McCartney, who is arguably the most successful songwriter to ever live, has stated in interviews that he does not consider himself a poet, and rightly so. 

As with Jazz, it is more or less appropriate to call Heavy Metal a form of pop music depending on the era and sub-genre we are talking about. Nevertheless, Heavy Metal does ultimately descend from rock ‘n roll, and shares rock ‘n roll’s pop-music approach to lyric writing. As much as I love Metal, I have yet to see the heavy metal lyric that I would call a poem. Moreover, if we’re being honest, there are very few heavy metal lyrics that I would go so far as to say have any literary merit. In the more extreme subgenres, vocals are often unintelligible, which allows bands to get away with sometimes heinously awful writing. Even when the lyrics are front and center, the sheer sonic power of the music is often enough to excuse lyrics that are cheesy, juvenile, clumsy, or even shamelessly incoherent. The bar is incredibly low. 

Even adjusting for this incredibly low bar however, the lyrics of Ronnie James Dio stand out as something special, not just in Metal music but in music more generally. They are not poetry, nor are they even especially articulate prose. All the same, they are richly evocative and symbolic in a way that has often been prized by the literary minded, and which betoken philosophical profundity beyond the writer’s own intentions. The principal source of this power in Dio is his use, like William Blake or W.B. Yeats, of a constantly recurring set of private images, a personal mythology which is revealed to the listener in tantalizing bits and pieces, but never fully rises to the surface. Unlike Blake or Yeats, I do not think that Dio had this personal mythology fully worked out and systematized, but this makes the task of the interpreter all the more intriguing. There is no one-to-one correspondence between Dio’s images and his philosophy—there is merely a subconscious pattern, a mythic language which may reveal fascinating vistas to the imaginative seeker. 

This brings me to another point worth making, which is that even within the confines of literature there is a distinction to be made between poetic genius and mythopoetic genius. In speaking of his idol George Macdonald, C.S. Lewis wrote that the Scotsman was, on the whole, a poor prose stylist—his articulations were often awkward, sentimental, bloated, and confusing. Nevertheless, his imaginative power, his ability to conceive of unique narratives which resonated with the sublime, ineffable potency of myth, and which elevated and enriched perception as much as a great poet, made him nevertheless a towering literary figure. Macdonald did not possess, in a certain sense, literary genius, but he did possess mythopoetic genius. Lewis explained that he realized the existence of this distinction when a friend told him the plot of Kafka’s The Castle. Intrigued, Lewis read the book, and realized that he was no better off than before, because it was the quality of the myth itself that mattered, not the telling of it. Whether Lewis was correct about the superfluousness of Kafka’s prose, he does hit upon a significant truth. If we examine many of the great myth-makers or genre pioneers like Lovecraft, Poe, Frank Herbert, or Lewis’s friend Tolkien, we quickly realize that these writers excel not because of their writing but because of the narratives and ideas they communicate in their writing. Their dazzling conceptions allow us to forgive infelicities in execution. Contrast this with a poet like Keats or Tennyson, who doesn’t actually have much to say, but says it so beautifully and vividly that we forgive them. The greatest poets of course—Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton— possess both golden visions and golden tongues.

With Dio, we have a similar circumstance to the predominantly mythopoetic writer. He is actually quite a bit more eloquent than most Metal or Rock lyricists, but this isn’t saying much from a literary perspective. The interest he has on the page has very little to do with his quote-unquote “literary” faculties, and much more to do with his mythopoetic faculties. His recurrent images: wheels, chains, carousels, the darkness before dawn, suns, pairs of opposites, and rainbows, combine and recombine in a fugue of symbols that can, to the interested listener, provide rich veins of narrative and thematic speculation. Dio’s career is vast and varied, too vast and varied to offer a comprehensive survey, so instead of taking you on a tour through his greatest hits, I will attempt to demonstrate his mythopoetic powers by walking you through a pet theory of mine of how several of his songs from his tenure in the band Rainbow fit together to form a compelling story.

 If you’re familiar with the term “juke-box musical” you’ll have an idea of what I’m going for here. A juke-box musical is a musical which fashions its plot by linking pre-existing songs into a plausible narrative chain. Mamma Mia, which weaves a romantic comedy plot through a selection of ABBA songs, is the most famous example. Dio’s songs are of the sort with which you could construct a hundred such juke-box musicals, and each would be like another chapter in one epic saga. 

Before we embark on that though, I know at least some of you are wondering: who the hell is Dio anyway? Well dear listener, let me enlighten you. 

Ronnie James Dio, who lived from 1942-2010, is widely considered the greatest Heavy Metal vocalist and frontman of all time, and what is amazing is that there is much more consensus on this judgement than you would expect. Despite worthy competition from the likes of Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford, Dio tops the online lists and wins the accolades again and again. Standing a mere 5 foot 4 inches, with charmingly mischievous elfin features, he nevertheless had a titanic voice, tireless energy, and a visionary personality which overwhelmed everything in its path. His musical projects read like a primer in the history of rock music, starting with doo-wop groups in the sixties, moving on to the blues rock group Elf in the seventies, then the symphonic proto-metal band Rainbow, then single-handedly resurrecting Black Sabbath’s career, then his classic 80’s Metal band Dio, and then, in the last years of his too short life, triumphantly returning to give Black Sabbath the swan song that Ozzy Osbourne never could, with Heaven & Hell. He is the inventor of the famous devil-horns gesture used by rock and metal fans the world over, and so when the one and half billion people on Earth who have an iphone look at that emoji in their messages, they are looking at Dio’s legacy. When Jack Black prays to a poster of Dio to teach him how to rock in the Tenacious D movie, no explanation is necessary. 

Born in New Hampshire and raised in Cortland, New York, Dio took up the trumpet at age 5 and formed his first band, the doo-wop group The Vegas Kings, at age 15, for which he taught himself to play bass guitar and, later, to sing, using techniques he’d learned listening to opera singers like Mario Lanza and Pavarotti, and employing breathing exercises he’d learned from playing trumpet. The Vegas Kings were rebranded as Ronnie and the Rumblers, then Ronnie and the Redcaps, then Ronnie Dio and the Prophets, then The Electric Elves, and then, at last, they took their final form as the rollicking honky-tonk outfit Elf. To hear a surreal taste of Ronnie in his doo-wop era, check out the Redcaps single “An Angel Is Missing,” link in the show notes. 

Once Ronnie and his friends had become Elf, they started to gain a bit of traction, becoming a regular opening act for the huge hard rock band Deep Purple. When Ritchie Blackmore, the illustrious guitarist of Deep Purple, decided to start his own band, he recruited Ronnie and Ronnie’s old high school friends, forming the now legendary outfit and one of my favorite bands of all time, Rainbow. With Blackmore as composer and guitarist and Ronnie as lyricist and vocalist, they made some of the best songs rock and metal have ever seen. Unforgivably, after three albums together, Blackmore got it into his head that he wanted to be a pop star, and when Dio, a man of resolute integrity and artistry, refused to take their band in a more mainstream direction, he was ejected. Rainbow went on to become a second-rate Hair Metal act, and so one of the greatest bands of all time came to an ignominious and disgusting end. 

After leaving Rainbow, Dio joined forces with another, even more iconic guitarist, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi. After producing six classic albums, Sabbath had gotten into a slump with their seventh and eighth, and after the departure of frontman Ozzy Osbourne, their prospects were looking grim. With the addition of Dio and his songwriting, however, the band turned from a gloomy washed-up act into a vivified, majestic force with one of their best albums, Heaven and Hell. Unfortunately the magic didn’t last long, and after a second very good but underrated album, Dio left the band due to personal differences. Having already put his hand to several iconic albums already, Dio now decided to form his own group, called, appropriately enough, Dio. This band too became an immense success, creating standards of the Metal repertoire like “Holy Diver,” “Rainbow In The Dark,” and “The Last In Line.” After another brief stint in Black Sabbath for the Dehumanizer album, Dio was the band that Ronnie found his home in, and played with some permutation of this group for over twenty years. Finally, shortly before his tragic early death from stomach cancer, Dio rejoined the non-Ozzie members of Black Sabbath for one last critically acclaimed album, The Devil You Know, released under the band name Heaven & Hell in honor of their first album together. A juggernaut performer until his very last year, Dio died on May 16th, 2010, at the age of 67. 

On his sarcophagus is written “The Man On The Silver Mountain,” a reference to an early Rainbow song that we will discuss shortly, and the white tomb is flanked by two urns engraved with the devil horns. The journalist Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone memorialized Dio in the following words: “"It wasn't just his mighty pipes that made him Ronnie James Dio — it was his moral fervor...what always stood out was Dio's raging compassion for the lost rock & roll children in his audience. Dio never pretended to be one of the kids — he sang as an adult assuring us that we weren't alone in our suffering, and some day we might even be proud of conquering it."

It now remains for us to see wherein lies Dio’s moral fervor and mythopoetic force. Several years ago, when I was going through an obsessive Rainbow listening phase, I noticed something interesting—if you took the best songs from each of the first three Rainbow albums, and arranged them in a certain order, they told a haunting story of the rise and fall of a false messiah. I call this story the Rainbow Mythos, and while it’s highly unlikely that Dio had this mythos in mind when writing, the narrative interest to be gained from mixing and matching his songs together is evidence of his lyrical richness. Before I begin my explanation of each song, I highly recommend you give the song in question a listen and pull up the lyrics, the links to which you can find in the show notes.  

We begin with the first song off the second Rainbow album, entitled “Tarot Woman.” This introduces us to a nameless young protagonist who feels compelled, like all Romantic protagonists, by an overwhelming sense of yearning and fate:


I don’t wanna go, something tells me no, 

But traces in the sand, the lines that set my hand say go. 


He seeks out a tarot woman, who tells him his fortune: that he must “beware of a place, a smile of a bright shining face” and that he will never return. This “bright shining face,” a future lover, will take him to “the entrance to the fair,” which we will understand to mean that he will embark upon the joyous, merry view of life of one who is in love. Yet this woman’s “love is like a knife, she’ll carve away your life.” 

In the next song, the last song off the third Rainbow album, entitled “Rainbow Eyes,” we skip to the end of the foretold love affair. This is a beautiful song of lost love, but for our purposes only three things are important. Firstly, the protagonist says that “they’ve taken down the fair,” establishing continuity with the first song and making clear his disillusionment with life following the break-up. Secondly, and most importantly, we are introduced to the all-important “rainbow” motif. The woman who was foretold to have a “bright shining face” is now specified as having “rainbow eyes.” Throughout this story, the rainbow represents mystical revelation. As in Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, the protagonist is trying out different methods to grasp the divine mystery. He has begun by seeking divine love through romantic love, and has caught a glint of it in his lover’s eyes, but now she is gone. He insists to himself that there were “no mysteries” but quickly recognizes that by losing her he has lost his way, and that his lover did indeed have “rainbow eyes.” By giving him a taste of mystical experience, she has “carved away his life,” as the fortuneteller warned—the rest of it will now be devoted to a quest for divinity from which he will never return. One last thing to note is that the image of his lover he revisits to again and again is of her laying “golden in the sun.” This association of the experience of love and divinity with the sun will prove crucial later.

Our next song, the fourth song on the first Rainbow album, is entitled “Catch The Rainbow.” Here, the protagonist must fully reckon with his loss. The song begins with him envisioning his lover coming back to him as physical and spiritual darkness closes in: 


“When evening falls, she’ll run to me

like whispered dreams your eyes can’t see.”


He sorrowfully reflects that both of them, through their love, “believed they would catch the rainbow, ride the wind into the sun.” In this one line, we have established the metaphysics of this story: Just as, for Plato, love was the bridge or liason between God and humanity, and just as, in Norse mythology, Bifrost was a rainbow bridge which led to the realm of the gods, so Dio envisions the rainbow as a bridge between the human and the divine, represented by the sun. The idea of flying into the sun of course also reminds us of Icarus, that embodiment of hubristic striving, and this parallel will become even more evident later on. Once we have recognized that the sun is the stand-in for God, all the references to darkness and light click into place. Moreover, we may note that the rainbow, which is a refraction of God’s pure light into an array of colors, is an apt symbol of the beauty of God’s creation. 

After recognizing the failure of his hopes, the protagonist goes on to say that he has learned that: “life’s not a wheel, with chains made of steel, so bless me.” In other words, his fate is not so deterministic as he once thought thought—if he wants to consummate his mystical desires, he will have to do it of his own volition. He asks either God or the phantom of his lover to “bless him,” and then prays “for the dawn.” Having entered into a darkness of the soul, he waits for God’s light to shine on him once again. We can also read the call for dawn as a desire for the path which he should seek to dawn upon him. So ends Act I of our story.

Act II, begins in dramatic fashion with the first song on the first album, “The Man On The Silver Mountain.” Here the narrative perspective shifts as a theophany appears before the protagonist in answer to his prayers, and he hears the voice of God, the man on the silver mountain, calling him to serve him as a prophet. This interpretation is all the more appropriate given the fact that Dio himself was called “the man on the silver mountain,” and Dio of course means god. 

Like a vision of ophanim out of the book of Ezekiel, the voice begins by saying that he is a wheel, he is the sun, he will never stop burning. That is to say: “I am fate, I am God, I am eternal. You, foolish mortal, thought you could break free from the wheel. But know that I am the wheel, and you cannot. I am your destiny.” Here we recall not only the Western notion of Fortuna’s wheel, but Eastern symbols: the cosmic wheel of dharma in Hinduism, portrayed on the Indian flag, and the Fire Sermon of the Buddha. 

The divine voice petitions the protagonist to:


“Come down with fire, lift my spirit higher,

someone’s screaming my name,

come and make me holy again.

I’m the man on the silver mountain.”


To “come down with fire” could mean several things: to present a revelation of God’s divine fire, as in the story of the prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel; to preach with fiery passion; to warn of divine wrath; or to give a divine gift of enlightenment to humanity, ala Prometheus. We may be curious as to why God presents himself as a man on a silver mountain, but the precedents are obvious: Zeus on Mt. Olympus, Sakra on Mt. Meru, God presenting Himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai, Jesus preaching from the Mount, etc. As for why the mountain is silver, the answer may lie in a later line, when he says that he is both “the black and the white.” Black and white together make gray, and the luminous form of gray is silver, hence the silver mountain. He also says that he is “both the dark and the light” echoing my favorite bible verse, Isaiah 45: “I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.” 

In sum, God calls the protagonist to serve him, or at least the protagonist thinks He does. Our next chapter is the sixth song from the first album, “The Temple Of The King.” In this song, we resume focus on the protagonist as he listens to the man on the silver mountain, and goes on to transform into a prophet, a worryingly messiah-like figure. The song begins:


One day in the year of the fox came a time remembered well.

When the strong young man of the rising sun heard the tolling of a great black bell. 


The detail that this is in the year of the fox foretells deception and trickery. The young man is of “the rising sun,” a reference to the growing influence of his solar God and also, possibly, to Christianity, which is also centered around a messianic rising son. “The tolling of the great black bell,” is an image that we haven’t encountered before, but I think it is safe to assume that, as in John Donne’s sermon where he speaks of “for whom the bell tolls,” it is a reference to the awareness of mortality. Awareness of and fear of death, as well as his recent heartbreak, spur the young man to seek out answers to the riddle of life. He goes to the temple of the king, the temple of his god. There he stands in a circle, mirroring the image of the wheel, and listens to “the old man sing,” presumably the man on the silver mountain. Afterward, the dawn the protagonist has been praying for rushes upon him “like a thousand wings,” and reveals him to be “the one,” the god’s chosen prophet. 

Once he has received the call, the protagonist makes his way among the masses: “there in the middle of the people he stands, seeing, feeling.” He is spoken of as having a “strong right hand,” which parallels the many references to God’s strong right hand in the Bible, as in Psalm 89:13: “your arm is endowed with power, your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.” Dio grew up in a deeply Catholic Italian-American household, and such biblical echoes would have likely come naturally to him. 

These people can see “by the shine in his eyes the answer had been found.” The divine glimmer that the protagonist once saw in his beloved’s eyes is now to be found in his own eyes. Just as he once became enamored of her for this reason, so now the masses flock to him as their savior. Little do they know they are about to become his slaves. 

We now come to the climax of our story, the fifth song on the second Rainbow album, “Stargazer.” Before I talk about it, let me just say that I think this is the single most majestic and profound song that popular music has ever produced. I get chills whenever I hear it. 

The song comes from the perspective of one of the protagonist’s followers, and we learn in this song that at least nine years have elapsed since the prophet received his call—in that time, he has acquired powers which lead others to label him as a wizard. He has convinced his followers to engage in backbreaking, fatal manual labor building him a tower by which he hopes to fly into his star. Having been disappointed by love, through which he could not “ride the wind into the sun” and dissatisfied with the religion he evangelized for, he now hopes to reach his mystical consummation through exploiting others, assuming the mantle of a messiah who will lead his minions to a new world, and physically forcing his way to the beatific vision. The tower of stone has replaced the grace of the rainbow as a ladder to the godhead. 

Dio here elegantly combines two tales of human hubris—the biblical story of the tower of Babel and the myth of Icarus. However, by also including the detail of the toiling followers who slave away and sacrifice themselves in blind faith to fulfill the wizard’s delusions of spiritual pride, Dio adds a touching sociological element. The song becomes a commentary on the function and folly of civilization itself—we create vast and sophisticated structures, whether physical or mental, in the hopes of achieving some sort of transcendent truth or happiness. We allow ourselves and others to be manipulated and killed by charismatic leaders and utopian ideologies. We enslave ourselves in the hopes of becoming free, insisting that “life is not a wheel with chains made of steel” while at the same time submitting ourselves to whips and chains. We are each both the pawns of our society and the proud wizard, desperate to build of our lives something by which we can reach an impossible consummation. Tragically, in the midst of all this suffering and death, we often lose sight of what we were striving for in the first place, serving causes which we do not understand:


In the heat and the rain, with whips and chains
 Just to see him fly, too many die
 We build a tower of stone
 With our flesh and bone, to see him fly
 But we don't know why, now where do we go?


The speaker remarks that “there is no sun in the shadow of the wizard.” In other words, the wizard has replaced god for his followers, and because he is being worshipped instead of god, his followers are not receiving any actual divine light. In his monomaniacal, egotistic ambition, he has blotted out their access to truth, the truth they so desperately desire, even as they toil, suffer, and die on his behalf. 

Finally, the wizard leaps from the tower—and of course, he falls and dies. His followers are speechless and devastated. They realize that all their sacrifice has been for naught, that the dream which they nurtured for years was a sham. Suddenly, however, the miraculous occurs: 


“I see a rainbow rising. Look there, on the horizon! 

And I’m coming home, I’m coming home, I’m coming home.” 


Only now that the people have witnessed the futility of human dreams, the smashing of their idols, can they perceive the true rainbow of the divine, the light of God refracted through their tears into a thing of mercy and sublimity. They are slaves no more, mentally or physically. One suspects that, like Christ, it was necessary for the wizard to die in order for his followers to achieve salvation, to recognize their folly and embrace reality. Perhaps the failure of the hapless stargazer was The Man On the Silver Mountain’s plan all along. Perhaps, in death, the wizard found his star after all. 

The narrator now proclaims triumphantly that the wizard, by dying, “gave him back his will,” and that he is now “going home,” perhaps to a life of simplicity, perhaps to God, but in any case, abandoning the Luciferian project of the tower, and taking charge of his own destiny. 

There is, however, one more turn of the screw. Our last song was actually written to be a direct sequel to Stargazer. It is the final song on the second album, and is entitled “A Light In The Black,” an echo of which we find in a much later Dio song, “Rainbow In The Dark.” 

This song deals with the aftermath of the wizard’s death, and is sung from the same perspective as the previous one. Despite the revelation of the rainbow, the speaker is still plagued by uncertainty:


Can't forget his face
 What a lonely place
 Has he really let us go?
 All the time that's lost
 What's the final cost
 Will I really get away?
 All my life it seems
 Just a crazy dream
 Reaching for somebody's star
 Can't believe it all
 Did he really fall
 What to do now I don't know.


He then says that “something’s calling me back, like a light in the black.” Calling him back where? To his home, or back to the tower? As at the end of Stargazer, he repeats that he is going home, and we believe that he has finally found liberation, and is returning to the real world. And then, in the very last verse, the speaker reveals:


I’ve got my way back home

to the sky

there in the sky

I see your star. 


God of course is the star: the light in the black, the blazing truth which is only revealed by the discovery of the darkness of the world. The speaker’s so-called “home” is not where he came from, it is in his origins, in God, in the sky, and that is where he intends to travel. He sees the star, and a new stargazer is born. The cycle of tragic striving continues. The wheel keeps on turning.