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Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio (born Ronald James Padavona, July 10, 1942 – May 16, 2010), was an Italian-American rock and heavy metal vocalist and songwriter. He performed with, among others, Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and his own band Dio. Other musical projects include the collective fundraiser Hear 'n Aid. He was widely hailed as one of the most powerful singers in music, renowned for his consistently powerful voice. His powerful, operatic voice was called on by many rock groups for songs on their albums. Kerry Livgren called on Ronnie to record two songs on his solo album "Seeds of Change"," Mask of the Deceiver" and "To Live for the King." These songs showcase two of Ronnie's many great vocal abilities, his great timbre and vocal thickness on "Mask of the Deceiver" and his soft operatic singing on to "To Live for the King." Roger Glover of Deep Purple called on Ronnie for "Sitting in a Dream" and " Love is All" from the Butterfly Ball and Grasshoppers Feast" album, which found Dio singing in a orchestral setting. Dio's unique vocal abilities allowed him a great range of styles from 50's Doo Wop and Orchestral to his better known Heavy Metal style. He is credited with popularizing the "metal horns" hand gesture in metal culture. Before his death, he was collaborating on a project with former Black Sabbath bandmates Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice, under the moniker Heaven & Hell, whose only studio album, The Devil You Know, was released on April 28, 2009. Dio died of stomach cancer on May 16, 2010 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank, CA. One of the last songs he recorded was titled "Metal Will Never Die". Ronnie James Dio has sold over 47 million copies of albums with all of the bands he has worked with.Early careerDio's musical career began in 1957 when several Cortland, New York musicians formed the band The Vegas Kings. This band's lineup had Padavona on the bass guitar, along with singer Billy DeWolfe, guitarist Nick Pantas, drummer Tom Rogers, and saxophone player Jack Musci.In 1958, the band again changed their name from Ronnie & The Rumblers to Ronnie and the Redcaps. At this point, Padavona began singing, replacing DeWolfe. Musci left the band in 1960, and a new guitarist, Dick Botoff, joined. The Redcaps lineup released two singles: "Conquest" b/w "Lover" (with DeWolfe on vocals on the B-side, and an instrumental reminiscent of The Ventures, featuring Dio on trumpet, on the A-side) on the Reb label, and on Seneca (S 178-102, USA), "An Angel Is Missing" with "What'd I Say" on the B-side (both songs featuring Padavona on vocals).Explanations vary for how Padavona adopted the stage name "Dio". One story is that Dio was a reference to mafia member Johnny Dio. Another has it that Padavona's grandmother said he had a gift from God and should be called "Dio". Whatever the inspiration, Padavona first used it on a recording in 1960, when he added it to the band's second release on Seneca. Soon after that the band modified their name to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. The Prophets lineup lasted for several years, touring throughout the New York region and playing college fraternity parties. They produced one single for Atlantic and one album. Some of the singles (such as "Mr. Misery", released on Swan) were labeled as being by Ronnie Dio as a solo artist even if the rest of the Prophets contributed to the recording. The group released several singles during the following years, until early 1967. Dio continued to use his birth name on any songwriting credits on those releases.In late 1967 Ronnie Dio and the Prophets transformed into a new band called The Electric Elves and added a keyboard player. Following recovery from a deadly car accident in February 1968 (which killed guitarist Nick Pantas and put Dio and other band members in the hospital briefly), the group shortened its name to The Elves and used that name until mid 1972 when it released its first proper album under the name Elf. Over the next few years, the group went on to become a regular opening act for Deep Purple. Elf recorded three albums until the members' involvement recording the first Rainbow album in early 1975 resulted in Elf disbanding.



Dio's vocals caught the ear of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in the mid-1970s, who was planning on leaving then due to creative differences over the band's new direction. Blackmore invited Dio along with Gary Driscoll to record two songs in Tampa, Florida on December 12, 1974. Blackmore stated in 1983 that "I left Deep Purple because I'd met up with Ronnie Dio, and he was so easy to work with. He was originally just going to do one track of a solo LP, but we ended up doing the whole LP in three weeks, which I was very excited about." Being satisfied with the results, Blackmore decided to recruit more of Elf's musicians and form his own band, primarily known as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. They released the self-entitled debut album Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow in early 1975. After that, Dio recorded two studio albums (Rising and Long Live Rock 'n' Roll) and one live album (On Stage) with Blackmore. During his tenure with Rainbow, Dio and Blackmore were the only constant members. Dio is credited on those albums for all lyrical authorship as well as collaboration with Blackmore on musical arrangement. Dio and Blackmore split with Blackmore taking the band in a more commercial direction, with Graham Bonnet on vocals and the album "Down to Earth" .

Black Sabbath

Dio left Rainbow in 1979 and soon joined Black Sabbath, replacing the fired Ozzy Osbourne. Dio met Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi by chance at The Rainbow on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1979. Both men were in similar situations, as Dio was seeking a new project and Iommi required a vocalist. Said Dio of the encounter, "It must have been fate, because we connected so instantly." The pair kept in touch via telephone, until Dio arrived at Iommi's Los Angeles house for a relaxed, getting-to-know-you jam session. On that first day the duo wrote the song "Children Of The Sea" which would appear on the Heaven and Hell album, the first the band recorded with Dio as vocalist in 1980.The follow-up, Mob Rules, featured new drummer Vinny Appice. Personality conflicts began emerging within the band. "Ronnie came into the band and he was doing whatever we told him, basically because he wanted the gig. The next album was a little different," Iommi recalled. In 1982, conflict arose over the mixing of the Live Evil album. Iommi asserted that the album's engineer began complaining to him that he would work all day long on a mix, only to have Dio return to the studio at night to "do his own mix" in which his vocals were more prominent. Dio denied doing anything of the sort. The conflict led to Dio and Appice ultimately quitting the band later that year.In 1992, Dio briefly returned to Black Sabbath to record the Dehumanizer album. The album was a minor hit, reaching the Top 40 in the United Kingdom and #44 on the Billboard 200. The single "Time Machine" was featured in the movie Wayne's World, the tenth highest-grossing film of 1992. Soon Dio and Appice again left the band, citing an inability to work with Iommi and Butler.


Wanting to continue together as a band, Ronnie James Dio and Vinnie Appice formed Dio, the band, in 1982. On guitar played Vivian Campbell and on bass Jimmy Bain, the latter whom he had known since the old Rainbow days. Their debut album, Holy Diver, included the hit singles "Rainbow in the Dark" and the title track, "Holy Diver". That lineup recorded three albums, before the band changed members over the years and leaving Dio as the only original member. Except a few breaks, Dio, the band, was always touring or recording. They released ten albums, with Master of the Moon being the last one, recorded in 2004.

Heaven & Hell

In October 2006, it was confirmed that Dio would be joining Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and former Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice to tour under the moniker Heaven & Hell, the title of the first Dio era Black Sabbath album. They chose the name Heaven & Hell as Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were still in Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne and felt it was best to use a different moniker for the Dio version of the band. Original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward was to be involved in this project, but he later withdrew. In 2008 the band completed a 98-date world tour. The band released one album under the Heaven & Hell name, The Devil You Know, to critical and commercial acclaim. They also had planned to release a follow-up in 2010.

Other projects

In 1974, Dio sang on the Roger Glover conducted and produced concept album The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast. Along other guest-singers, the album featured Deep Purple alumni Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale. Dio provided vocals for the songs "Homeward", "Sitting in a Dream" and the UK single "Love is All".In 1980, Dio sang the tracks "To Live for the King" and "Mask of the Great Deceiver" on Kerry Livgren's solo album Seeds of Change. Dio, who was between stints as singer for Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Black Sabbath, later proved somewhat controversial among Livgren's Christian fans, as Black Sabbath and Dio were then perceived as "satanic" by many Christians. Dio said in an interview that he did not consider the album to be a "Christian" album and had performed on it as a favor to Livgren.In 1985, Dio contributed to the metal world's answer to Band Aid and USA for Africa with the Hear 'n Aid project. With a heavy metal all-star ensemble which was the brainchild of his fellow Dio band mates Vivian Campbell and Jimmy Bain, he sang some of the vocals on the single "Stars" and an album full of songs from other artists given to charity.The project raised $1 million within a year.In 1997, Dio made a cameo on Pat Boone's In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, an album of famous heavy metal songs played in big band style. Dio can be heard singing backup on Boone's take of "Holy Diver". In 1999, he was parodied in the TV show South Park, in the episode Hooked on Monkey Fonics, which he later went on to describe as "wonderful".In 1999, Dio participated in a significant Deep Purple project, Concerto for Group and Orchestra, where he recorded cover versions of Deep Purple songs, and reprised his songs from the earlier Butterfly Ball, and Grasshoppers Feast album.Tenacious D included a tribute song entitled "Dio" that appeared on their self-titled album. The song explains how he has to "pass the torch" for a new generation. Reportedly, Dio approved of it, and had Tenacious D appear in his video "Push" from Killing the Dragon in 2002. He also appeared in the film Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, playing himself.In 2005, Dio was revealed to be the voice behind Dr. X in Operation: Mindcrime II, the sequel to Queensrÿche's seminal concept album Operation: Mindcrime. His part was shown in a prerecorded video on the subsequent tour, and Ronnie appeared onstage to sing the part live on at least one occasion (both shown on the Mindcrime at the Moore DVD).On January 17, 2007, he was inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame at Guitar Center on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard.Dio is thanked in the end credits of the 2011 film Atlas Shrugged: Part I, due to his being "one of the people who kept the project alive."

Personal life

Dio and his first wife, Loretta Berardi (born 1941), adopted a son, Dan Padavona.After divorcing Berardi, he married Wendy Gaxiola (born 1945) who also served as his manager. In the 1980s, she managed the Los Angeles rock bands Rough Cutt, and Hellion. Dio remained married to Gaxiola until his death.

Illness and death

On November 25, 2009, Wendy announced that Dio had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and was being treated at the Mayo Clinic, but that he would be back on stage when recovered.On May 4, 2010, Heaven & Hell announced they were canceling all summer dates as a result of Dio's ill health. His last live performance was with Heaven & Hell on August 29, 2009 in Atlantic City, NJ.Dio died at 7:45 am (CDT) on May 16, 2010, of metastasized stomach cancer, according to official sources.A public memorial service was held on May 30, 2010 at The Hall Of Liberty, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles. The hall was filled to capacity, with more fans sitting outside the hall watching from a screen. Friends, family, and former and current band mates of Dio gave speeches and performed including Rudy Sarzo, Geoff Tate, John Payne, Glenn Hughes, Joey Belladonna, and Heaven & Hell keyboard player, Scott Warren. On the screen was an accompanying documentary covering Dio's career from his early days with Elf to his final project with Heaven & Hell. The Westboro Baptist Church held a small rally denouncing Dio as a Satan worshiper. Wendy Dio urged those attending the funeral to ignore the protest.


Dio's career spanned over fifty years. During this period, and particularly in the 21st century, he received a number of distinctions and awards. He was inducted into the Cortland City Hall of Fame in 2004, and has a street named after him there called Dio Way. Classic Rock Magazine awarded Dio with the "Metal Guru Award" at their yearly "Roll Of Honour" awards ceremony in 2006. On January 17, 2007, Dio was inducted into Guitar Center's Rock Walk of Fame in Hollywood, CA. Dio was named "Best Metal Singer" at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards in April 2010 for his work on The Devil You Know, making him the oldest recipient of this award at age 67. He accepted the award in person at what was to be his final public appearance, less than one month before his death. The main stage of Bloodstock Open Air is also named after him in tribute after Heaven & Hell pulled out upon his death. Also the main stage on Masters of Rock festival carries his name since summer 2010. A Dio monument has been unveiled in Kavarna, Bulgaria. In Mexico the biggest metal fest was named "Hell and Heaven" in honor of Dio; the organization says that the festival was named that way since they had worked with Dio, referring to him as "the greatest singer and person we ever had worked with, a really humble person"Rolling Stone magazine eulogized Dio with these 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".On July 10, 2011, in parallel to Dio's birthday, Cortland, NY held a day-long event featuring many central New York local bands and talent for a benefit to the Stand Up and Shout Cancer foundation for cancer research and Dio Memorial concert. Part of the proceeds from the event went to fund a memorial music scholarship for the local city high-school in his name.On March 31, 2014, the tribute album Ronnie James Dio This Is Your Life will be released. It was organized and produced by Wendy Gaxiola, with album proceeds benefitting the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund.

Band timeline

  • The Vegas Kings (1957–1958)
  • Ronnie & The Rumblers (1958)
  • Ronnie & The Red Caps (1958–1961)
  • Ronnie Dio & The Prophets (1961–1967)
  • The Electric Elves (1967–1969)
  • The Elves (1969–1970)
  • Elf (1970–1975)
  • Rainbow (1975–1979)
  • Black Sabbath (1979–1982, 1991–1992, 2006 [Recording of three new songs for Black Sabbath: The Dio Years\])
  • Dio (1982–1991, 1993–2010)
  • Hear 'n Aid (1985)
  • Heaven & Hell (2006–2010)



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