Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)

Chapter 88. Farewell to a dear friend

While we were on that last tour, Ronnie was suffering quietly. He did say to me a few times: ‘I’ve got a problem with my stomach. I keep going to the loo and I’m taking this ant-acid stuff.’

I said to him many times: ‘You want to go and get a check-up.’

He’d go: ‘Yeah, when we finish I’ll sort myself out.’

He battled through it. He really did give it all until the end. He wasn’t well, but he still went on and did the shows, and he performed as usual. After he finally went in to have a check-up, somebody told Ralph Baker what was going on and he in turn called me to tell me Ronnie had stomach cancer. It was awful to hear that. I called Ronnie and we stayed in touch. After a while things were looking up. He said: ‘I’m coping with it. I’m doing a bit better.’

He was very positive towards it all, he had a great attitude. He went into hospital and after a while they said: ‘We think we’ve cleared it.’

Things looked great, so we arranged to do another tour of Europe, something like twenty gigs from mid-June through to mid-August 2010. But then we got the terrible news that the cancer had spread to Ronnie’s liver. And that was it; once that happens it’s very difficult.

I was talking to him one day and I said: ‘I’m looking forward to doing this tour.’

But Ronnie said: ‘Well, I don’t know how I’m going to be. I don’t know if I’m going to make it.’

He went downhill very quickly. Thank goodness Geezer and Gloria were in Los Angeles. They really stood close to Ronnie and his wife, Wendy, and went to see him in hospital a lot. Geezer was there right till the end.

I really didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to Ronnie. I’d had the phone call saying he didn’t have long and I said to Ralph: ‘We had better go out. Let’s book a flight.’

But the next call was: ‘It’s too late.’

It was that quick. I think the last thing I got off him was a text. He did stay in touch texting me, because sometimes he couldn’t call. Talking was tiring him out a lot, because he was very ill. And he braved right through it.

A couple of days before the funeral me and Maria went to see him in the chapel of rest. He was lying in the coffin and when I saw him I broke down. To see him like that was very hard. It really hit me then that he was gone.

When somebody close to you dies, you always look for a reason. With Ronnie I think it was a bit of everything, really. I don’t think he got himself checked out early enough. He would put things off and go: ‘Oh, I’ll do it next time.’

And his eating habits weren’t very good. He’d often drink instead of eating and some days he wouldn’t eat at all. I don’t know how he did that. He’d also eat at peculiar hours, because he had a really different lifestyle from anyone else in the band. We’d be in bed after the gig and Ronnie would stay up and have a few drinks for a couple of hours and then he’d stop off at a truck stop and eat at four in the morning or whatever time it would be. When he did eat, he never ate vegetables or anything; he just didn’t eat any healthy stuff. As long as I’ve known him, he was always very thin. When he was ill he lost weight, and he really didn’t have the body to lose weight. But when I saw him for that very last time, the way they had done him up, he looked fine. He looked as if he was asleep, but seeing him there, it broke my heart.

We were going to do the High Voltage Festival in London with Ronnie. Of course we cancelled the whole tour, but the people organising that festival told us that they’d like to do a tribute show to Ronnie. We thought, that’s great. We had thought of doing that anyway, so this was the ideal opportunity.

But who were we going to get to sing? Glenn Hughes came to mind, because he had known us for a long time and he was friends with Ronnie as well. As a matter of fact, there was a private memorial for Ronnie’s close friends and Glenn sang ‘Catch The Rainbow’ there in the chapel, one of the songs by Ronnie’s old band, Rainbow. There was a memorial again the following day for the fans in a big venue, and Glenn sang there as well. So we thought it was appropriate to have him on the show. We also invited Jørn Lande, who could sing the stuff we did with Dio really good.

Doing that show was very emotional. To go on stage with two different people, and with Wendy Dio on the side of the stage crying, it was difficult for all of us. But we wanted to do it for him.

We did it for Ronnie.