Ronnie James Dio

February 22. 2013 7:55PM

Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona on July 10, 1942 in Portsmouth. His parents moved to Cortland, New York when Ronnie was very young. He started playing the trumpet at the age of five but by his teen years, even though he had already recorded with several rockabilly bands, he realized that the trumpet was not his instrument. He was also trained in the French Horn.

Padavona joined his first band, the Vegas Kings, when he was in high school. He played the bass guitar, but eventually became the lead singer and the name of the band was changed to Ronnie & the Rumblers and later, Ronnie And The Red Caps. He graduated from Cortland City School in 1960 and attended the University of New York at Buffalo, majoring in Pharmacology. Ronnie was offered a scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music but turned it down to pursue his interest in rock music. In 1961, he changed his name to Ronnie James Dio (after gangster Johnny Dio) and the name of the band to Ronnie Dio and The Prophets. They released a series of singles until 1967 when the group disbanded.

Dio and guitarist Nick Pantas formed a new band called the Electric Elves, which was shortened to Elf in 1969. In 1970, the band was involved in an accident which took the life of Nick Pantas. They did continue without him, but he was not replaced. In addition to vocals, Ronnie also played bass for the band. In January 1972, Roger Glover and Ian Paice of Deep Purple saw them auditioning for Columbia and offered to produce their first album. The self-titled debut album was a mild success and they started opening for Deep Purple at the height of the band's popularity.

When Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left the band, he recruited members of Elf, including Ronnie, to form a band called Rainbow. They released their debut album in 1975, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and followed it with Rising in 1976, a live album titled On Stage in 1977 and Long Live Rock and Roll in 1978. Dio left the band over creative differences in 1979 and joined Black Sabbath, replacing Ozzy Osbourne that same year.

With Black Sabbath, Dio helped bring the band back with the 1980 album Heaven and Hell. The record became one of Black Sabbath's best-selling albums. In 1981, they released Mob Rules. Disagreements during the mixing process on a third album led to Ronnie and drummer Vinnie Apprice quitting the band to form Dio. He reunited with Black Sabbath for 1992's Dehumanizer album but when it was announced that they would be touring as the opening act for Ozzy, Ronnie walked away.

In 1983, Dio released their debut album Holy Diver, which included the single of the same name. The song is their best known, and though it only reached number 40 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock Tracks charts, it is their anthem. A second single, "Rainbow in the Dark" fared better, reaching number 14. The album is the band's most notable work, reaching Platinum status in the U.S. But they went on to record ten albums, with their last one, Master of the Moon, released in 2004. The band went through several lineup changes over the years with Ronnie being the only constant member. A live album, Evil or Divine — Live in New York City, which was the audio version of a DVD released in 2003, was released in 2005. A live double CD titled Holy Diver — Live was released in 2006. It was recorded in London, England during their "An Evening with Dio" Tour which featured two sets, a regular set, followed by a performance of the 1983 Holy Diver album played in its entirety.

In 2007, Ronnie reunited again with the remaining members of Black Sabbath but they named the band Heaven and Hell, releasing a record The Devil You Know in 2009. This resulted in the delay of Dio's next album, Magica II and a single titled "Electra," the last song the band ever recorded. A European tour was also scheduled.

Ronnie James Dio was hospitalized in November 2009 and the tour was cancelled. He had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and was receiving treatment. He passed away on May 16, 2010 at the age of 67. He will forever be remembered for his melodic voice, a classic rock and heavy metal wizard, and for popularizing the use of the devil horns, which became affiliated with rock music and especially heavy metal.

Despite his death, rumor has it that there will be a new recording set for release in 2011. A new album by Ronnie's cousin, David "Rock" Feinstein, called Bitten by the Beast will include the song "Metal Will Never Die," which was mastered a couple months before his death. A second song, the last ever recorded by him, will be released on a new reunion album by the Rods.

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