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Ronnie James DioThere is only one, true, proven originator of the heavy metal horns, and that is Ronnie James Dio of Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio.  Any and all other claimants to this creation are either liars or delusional.  Case in point Gene Simmons.

Gene--a legend in his own right, who can (and does) lay claim to much, but not this--has said that it is in fact he who invented the Metal Horns, siting photos of himself over the years throwing upside down, thumb extended, palms facing out hand gestures.  While less informed, metal fans might be fooled and intimidated by Gene’s forceful claims and “photo evidence,” any early fan of Kiss will know that prior to the Metal Horns popularity, Gene always sited comic books, particularly “Spiderman” as the inspiration for much of his onstage body language and unique hand gestures.  As a Spiderman and Kiss fan I can tell you, this is in fact where Gene got his “demon hands.” One need only watch any of the Spiderman movies to see the same hand gestures being made each time “Spidey” shoots his webs.  And no...Spiderman is not imitating Gene Simmons. Gene Simmons

Now a few years back, there was one other claimant to the creation of the heavy metal horns and for a short time it was looking like Ronnie James Dio might have lied about his personal inspiration (more on that later).

Herman “Fingers” Feinstein was the lead singer in a late 60’s, early metal band, a la’ Blue Cheer, out of Ohio called “Roher 714” (named after the then popular Quaalude).  While the band never actually put out a record, or even had much of a following for that matter (word is the band sucked), there have been a number of photos produced, predating Dio, showing “Fingers” throwing the heavy metal horns.  Thankfully, due to new digital photographic technologies and some investigation into Herman Feinstein’s history, it has been discovered that Herman was actually missing the thumb, middle and ring fingers on his right hand!  Having been blown off by a high powered firework he held in his hand too long, one fateful fourth of July in the mid-60’s.  After surgery, Herman Feinstein was left with permanent metal horns on his right hand.  It turns out his nickname “Fingers” was actually an inside joke.  So what Feinstein claims to be him originating the metal horns, and what photographs and audiences mistook for the gesture was in fact, Herman simply waving at the crowd...with missing fingers.  Case closed.

Whether it was genuine inspiration, or Ronnie James Dio’s attempt to come up with his own, signature hand gesture to compete with his rival Ozzy Osbourne’s “peace sign,” it can not be denied that Dio was the first to “throw the horns.”

OZZYRonnie himself has often explained that he took the gesture from his Italian grandmother.  “The Horns” as they’re known in Italian culture, are a sign of good luck and used to ward off evil; essentially one in the same.  If someone has something positive going for them (a coming child or maybe a new job), family and friends hearing of this good fortune will wave “the horns” at the recipient in an effort to keep away evil, thus bringing good luck.  Dio saw the gesture used by his grandma as an empowering one and brought it to the stage in the early 70’s.  Fans immediately picked up on the horn gesture and “threw the horns” back at Ronnie.  Every night Dio performed, thousands of metal fans left the arenas with not only the memory of a great show, put a new symbol of heavy metal solidarity.  But it wouldn’t be until the Rainbow/Sabbath/Dio fans who grew up, started bands and became rock stars themselves that the real spreading of the metal horns would take effect.  Like a geometric equation from hell, the one (Ronnie) beget dozens, the dozens beget hundreds and the defining symbol of heavy metal went viral.

Thank you Ronnie James Dio for giving us a gift even greater than your music or your powerful voice.  I’m sure you never expected this to be your greatest legacy.

When exactly the metal horns jumped the rails (or the shark if you like) and spilled over into the mainstream and other music forms, it is difficult to be certain.  I do have my own theory; I blame Bon Jovi (See the mission statement section of this website for more details.), but I can’t prove it irrefutably.