The late, great Ronnie James Dio was many things to many metallers, but perhaps his most wide-reaching cultural innovation was the horned hand gesture. Permeating mainstream culture as far as Rihanna, the devil’s horn salute has been raised far and wide; here are some of its best moments.
Ronnie first popularised the devil’s horns after replacing Ozzy Osbourne as Black Sabbath’s vocalist in 1979. Some claim that Coven frontman Jinx Dawson was pulling the move first, but Dio undoubtedly brought it to the masses, including Kiss’ Gene Simmons.
Marilyn Manson throws the horns. Dio once explained that he was taught the so-called corna sign by his Italian grandmother, as a way to scare off the “evil eye”, a look which is said to cause bad luck.
In an early use of the devil’s horns, the cover of The Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ depicts Lennon making the gesture and predates Dio by over a decade. However, Bram Stoker mentioned it in his 1897 novel Dracula’, when the protagonist Jonathan Harker notices a crowd making the sign to ward off the “evil eye”.
Snoop Dogg displays his love of Metallica, metal in general, and tasteful bling. Dio was never seen with fake nails on his pinkies though, to our knowledge.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ slap-headed slap bassist and musician for hire Flea brandishes the Dio horns onstage. Dio, the 5’4″ singer behind the gesture, spent a massive six decades in the business; his career began in 1957 when he joined a band called The Vegas Kings.
Ronnie James Dio flashes the fingers. For a full gallery celebrating the life of the erstwhile Black Sabbath singer head here.
Rocker, film-maker and founder of White Zombie Rob Zombie, left, in a rare photo where he’s not throwing the horns. Quasi satanists and mediocre noise rockers White Zombie made records for 13 long years between 1985 and 1998.
Slipknot celebrate the devil. Tributes poured in to Rob Zombie this week, with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich writing “Ronnie, your voice impacted and empowered me, your music inspired and influenced me, and your kindness touched and moved me.”
Two of Dio’s biggest fans, the guys out of Anvil (they’re the ones sporting the bumbags). Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow recently announced he’s got about 20 songs ready for their forthcoming album ‘Juggernaut of Justice’.
Now, though, the gesture has made it into mainstream culture, much to the chagrin of metal fans worldwide. Ronaldinho commonly uses the expression after scoring goals.
In America, the expression means “I love you” in sign language. It’s also been used by presidents from Bush to Obama and dates as far back as Jimmy Carter in the 1970s.
George Bush prefers to tuck his thumb in while Obama often sticks his out. Communicating via sign language is a common tool in the US politician’s vocabulary. If you’re at a political event in the states there will be a couple of people down the front signing to the audience.
Karen O makes the sign onstage in front of her own evil eye. President Obama also does a similar Hawaiian ‘aloha’ greeting.
In perhaps the worst case of celebrity sullying metal’s greeting, Fergie flashes the horns at some corporate event.
Run DMC were also fans of the devil’s horn. We interviewed the man behind the gesture, Dio, in June 2009 – head here to read his reminiscences on Ozzy Osbourne, ‘Holy Diver’, and starring in South Park.
Ronnie James Dio, singer, songwriter, member of Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and his own band Dio, immortalises his own famous hand gesture. Dio passed away on Sunday May 16th from stomach cancer.