If Download has become a wild celebration of all things wonderful in the rock and metal worlds then this year’s festival, more than most, could become one, long wake. In a good way.

Every year there are certain bands and their fans bound to have been touched by the loss of those they love or respect. And suitable tributes are paid.

But Download 2010, more than any of the previous events, will find the time and the means to honour six very special individuals – all of whom have died since Def Leppard brought down the curtain on last June’s event.

In Ronnie James Dio there are fewer more important vocalists in terms of the music he created and the musicians he inspired.  

It is entirely fitting that Download’s second stage has been named in his memory this year and no doubt the bands performing there this weekend will mark his passing with aplomb.

Another influential figure with a stage carrying his name is less well known to the majority of rock and metal fans. But every one of us owes Monsters Of Rock co-founder Maurice Jones a massive debt for creating the Donington legend and his proud legacy lives on.

Elsewhere our minds will turn to Stuart Cable – the former Stereophonics drummer who was due to play a Saturday set with his cracking new band Killing For Company. That the Welshman died less than a week before he was due to hit Download is particularly tragic.

Then there’s the iconic Paul Gray. Slipknot delivered a killer set at Download just 12 months ago and their bass player was in typically abrasive form. Gray died after Dio and before Cable – all three passing in a matter of weeks.

But it’s not as if we weren’t already mourning sadly missed rock gods in the shape of Avenged Sevenfold’s Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan’, Type O Negative’s Pete Steele and Evile’s Mike Alexander. It’s been a tough year for the close-knit family of rock.

And while Download is the perfect occasion to remember all six it shouldn’t – and couldn’t – be a sombre occasion. This year’s festival should be dedicated to their memories in the most positive way possible with thundering sets, beaming smiles and no-holds-barred celebration.

Sure the odd tear will be shed, a series of poignant words spoken and a succession of songs dedicated to the men we have named above.

But they, more than anyone, would hate to put a dampener on Download 2010. We’re confident their talents will have exactly the opposite effect and that the 30th anniversary of the greatest rock and roll show on earth will serve as a glorious and spine-tingling send-off.