Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio

Dio at the IronFest, June 5th, 2005.
Background information
Birth name Ronald James Padavona
Born July 10, 1942(1942-07-10)
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States
Died May 16, 2010(2010-05-16) (aged 67)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres Heavy metal, doom metal, power metal, hard rock, blues rock
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter, producer
Instruments Vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards, trumpet, french horn
Years active 1957–2010
Associated acts Dio, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, Elf, Hear 'n Aid
Website Official website

Ronald James Padavona (July 10, 1942 – May 16, 2010), better known as Ronnie James Dio, was an American heavy metal vocalist and songwriter. He performed with, amongst others, Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and his own band Dio, which means God in Italian. Other musical projects include the collective fundraiser Hear 'n Aid. He was widely hailed as one of the most powerful singers in heavy metal,[1] renowned for his consistently powerful voice. He often ranks as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time in various online polls and lists. He is credited with popularizing the "metal horns" hand gesture in metal culture. Prior to 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.[2] Dio died of stomach cancer on May 16, 2010.[3][4] One of the last songs he recorded was titled "Metal Will Never Die".[5]


Early years, education and musical training

Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the only child of Italian parents.[6] They lived in Portsmouth until the family moved to Cortland, New York early in his life.

He initially played the trumpet and French horn[7] and even recorded several singles with various rockabilly bands when he was a boy. When he was in high school, he joined a band called The Vegas Kings, in which he played the bass guitar. He eventually became the lead singer of this band, which changed its name to Ronnie & The Rumblers and finally to Ronnie And The Red Caps. Their first 7-inch single was released in 1958 on Reb Records under the name Ronnie & The Redcaps. Its A-side, 'Lover' still had Billy DeWolfe on vocals but Dio's voice can be heard clearly in the back. The B-side, 'Conquest' is an instrumental in the style of the Ventures, featuring Dio on trumpet.

Dio graduated from the Cortland City School in 1960, and was inducted to the Cortland City School Hall of Fame in 2004.[8] He was also honored on November 15, 1988 by his hometown naming a street after him, Dio Way.[9]

During a performance at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center in Darien, NY (near Buffalo, NY) on September 19, 2007, Dio revealed that he had attended the University at Buffalo, majoring in pharmacy.[10] He attended from 1960 to 1961 but did not graduate.[6] He formed one of his early bands during his freshman year.[11]

He was offered a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music but did not pursue it due to his interest in rock music.[12] Despite being known for his powerful singing voice, Dio claimed never to have taken any vocal training.[13] He attributed his singing ability to the correct breathing techniques he learned when playing the French horn as a child.


Early career

Dio performing with Rainbow. In the middle is Ritchie Blackmore. They first met when Dio's Elf opened for Deep Purple.

Dio's musical career began in 1957 when several Cortland, New York musicians formed the band The Vegas Kings, which soon changed their name to Ronnie and the Rumblers. 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, along with a few changes of personnel. The band was now known as Ronnie and the Redcaps. At this point, Padavona began singing, replacing DeWolfe. Musci also left the band, and a new guitarist, Dick Botoff, joined. The Redcaps lineup released two singles: "Lover" b/w "Conquest" (with DeWolfe on vocals 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).

In 1961, they changed their name to Ronnie Dio and The Prophets. The Prophets lineup lasted for quite a long time and produced several singles and one album. Some sources state that some of the single releases were made by Ronnie James Dio solo, but others, such as Dio himself, state that all of the singles were made as a band.

Padavona took up the name "Dio" after mafia member Johnny Dio,[14] and first used it professionally in 1961, when he added it to the band's second release on Seneca. Soon after that the band changed their name to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets. The group released several singles during the following years, until 1967.

Ronnie Dio and the Prophets disbanded in 1967, but he and Prophets guitarist Nick Pantas started a new band called the Electric Elves. They shortened their name to Elf in 1969, and went on to become an opening act for Deep Purple.


Dio's vocals caught the ear of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, and when Blackmore left the band, he recruited Dio and other members of Elf to form Rainbow. Rainbow released its debut as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow in 1975. Dio recorded two more classic albums (Rising and Long Live Rock 'n' Roll) and the live album On Stage with Rainbow, but he left the band due to creative differences: Blackmore had wanted to take the band in a more commercial direction.

Black Sabbath

In 1979, after leaving Rainbow, Dio joined Black Sabbath, replacing Ozzy Osbourne. That line-up released the highly successful Heaven and Hell album in 1980, which revitalized the band's career. They then went on to record Mob Rules with Vinny Appice on drums. Vinny replaced original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward during the tour for Heaven and Hell due to familial problems at the time. The album proved less successful than its predecessor, but still a hit. In 1982, disagreements over the mixing of Live Evil led to Ronnie Dio and Vinny Appice quitting the band to form the band Dio. In 1992, Dio briefly returned to Black Sabbath to record Dehumanizer. The album was a minor hit, reaching the Top 40 in the United Kingdom, and #44 on the Billboard 200.


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". As the band changed members over the years, Dio was 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. During September 2005, Dio toured Siberia and Russia's far east, kicking off in Khabarovsk.[15] In 2000, Century Media released Holy Dio: Tribute to Ronnie James Dio, an album featuring a number of covers by mainly power metal bands. The last song he recorded with his band was titled "Electra".

Heaven & Hell

Ronnie "throwing horns". He is credited for popularizing the symbol in heavy metal music.

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 involved

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 & 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".

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."[16]

Personal life

Ronnie James Dio performing at the Spodek arena in Katowice, Poland, 6/20/2007, with Heaven and Hell
Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice at the Spodek arena, 6/20/2007

Dio and his first wife, Loretta Berardi (born 1941), adopted a son, Dan Padavona.[6]

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, Nuhaven (with drummer Doug Simpson), and Hellion. She is the chair of the privately sponsored organization, Children of the Night, dedicated to rescuing America's children from prostitution. Dio remained married legally to Gaxiola until his death.

Illness and death

On November 25, 2009, Wendy announced that Dio had been diagnosed as having stomach cancer:[17]

"Ronnie has been diagnosed with the early stages of stomach cancer. We are starting treatment immediately at the Mayo Clinic. After he kills this dragon, Ronnie will be back on stage, where he belongs, doing what he loves best, performing for his fans. Long live rock and roll, long live Ronnie James Dio. Thanks to all the friends and fans from all over the world that have sent well wishes. This has really helped to keep his spirit up."

On March 14, 2010, Wendy posted an online update on his condition:

"It has been Ronnie's 7th chemo, another cat scan and another endoscopy, and the results are good – the main tumor has shrunk considerably, and our visits to Houston (cancer clinic in Texas) are now every three weeks instead of every two weeks."

On May 4, 2010, Heaven & Hell announced they were canceling all summer dates as a result of Dio's ill health.[18]

Dio died at 7:45 am (CDT) on May 16, 2010, of metastasized stomach cancer, according to official sources.[19][20][21]

Wendy said on Dio's official site:[22][23]

"Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever."

A free public memorial service was held on May 30, 2010 at 2 p.m. at The Hall Of Liberty, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles.[24] The hall was filled with over 1,500 people, so the remainder of the fans had to sit outside of the hall and watch from a live screen. Friends, family, and former and current band mates of Dio's gave speeches and performed, including Rudy Sarzo, John Payne, Glenn Hughes, Joey Belladonna & Dio/Heaven & Hell keyboard player Scott Warren. On the screen was an accompanying documentary covering Dio's career, from his beginnings in Elf to his final project Heaven & Hell. Everybody who attended had the opportunity to view Dio's coffin. The Westboro Baptist Church held a small rally, denouncing Dio as a Satan worshiper.[25] Wendy Dio urged those attending the funeral to ignore the protest, saying:

"Ronnie hates prejudice and violence. We need to turn the other cheek on these people that only know how to hate someone they didn't know. We only know how to love someone we know!"


Dio's monument in Kavarna, Bulgaria.

Dio's career spanned over five decades, from 1957 to 2010. 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. In his post-Elf band Rainbow, Ronnie wrote some of the first Power Metal lyrics. 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.[26] The main stage of Bloodstock Open Air is also named after him in tribute after Heaven and Hell pulled out upon his death. A Dio monument has been unveiled in Kavarna, Bulgaria.[27]

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".[28]

On July 10, 2011 in parallel to Ronnie Dio's birthday in Cortland, NY was 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.[29]

Band timeline

Band Members
The Vegas Kings

Ronnie and the Rumblers
Ronnie (Dio) and the Redcaps

(The name 'Dio' was added on their second single release)

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



  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal, Daniel Bukszpan, Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc. NY, 2003. ISBN 0-7607-4218-9
  2. ^ "Heaven And Hell Album Details Revealed". Retrieved March 21, 2009. 
  3. ^ Message from Wendy Dio, DIO
  4. ^ Sisario, Ben (2010-05-16). "Ronnie James Dio, Rock Vocalist, Dies at 67". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  5. ^ "One Of RONNIE JAMES DIO's Final Recordings To Appear On DAVID 'ROCK' FEINSTEIN Album". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  6. ^ a b c Sweeting, Adam (May 17, 2010). "Ronnie James Dio obituary". The Guardian (London). 
  7. ^ "Obituary: Ronnie James Dio - The Scotsman". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  8. ^ Cortland Schools alumni
  9. ^ "Dio Way". 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  10. ^ "Ronnie James Dio interview". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  11. ^[dead link]
  12. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  13. ^ Van Pelt, Doug (May/June 1997). "What Dio Sez". HM Magazine (65). ISSN 1066-6923. Archived from the original on 2000-12-12. Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  14. ^ Wilson, Dave. Rock Formations: Categorical Answers to How Band Names Were Formed. San Jose, Calif.: Cidermill Books, 2004. ISBN 0-9748483-5-2
  15. ^ "Dio speaks! - Aug 6, 2005". 2005-08-06. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  16. ^ Weigel, David (2011-03-03) Libertarians Shrugged,
  17. ^ "Ronnie James Dio Diagnosed With Stomach Cancer". 25 November 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2009. 
  18. ^ "HEAVEN & HELL: All Summer Shows Canceled". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  19. ^ " Metal rocker Ronnie James Dio has died, wife says". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  20. ^ "Legendary Heavy Metal Vocalist RONNIE JAMES DIO Dies". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  21. ^ "Officially communicated of Dio's death". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  22. ^ Houston Chronicle blog "Ronnie James Dio dead". May 16, 2010. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
  23. ^ Metal Injection "Ronnie James Dio Dies At Age 67". May 16, 2010. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
  24. ^ The Associated Press (2010-05-31). "Ronnie James Dio remembered in L.A". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  25. ^ "BLABBERMOUTH.NET - RONNIE JAMES DIO's Public Memorial Service: First Photos, Video Footage". Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  26. ^ "The Second Annual Revolver Golden Gods Winners Are Revealed! - Revolver Golden Gods Awards". 2010-04-09. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  27. ^ "Паметник на Рони Джеймс Дио откриха в Каварна". 2010-10-13. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  28. ^ "Farewell, Dio: You Got to Bleed for the Dancer". 
  29. ^ Dick Bottoff (2011-07-10). "DIO Tribute Web Site". Retrieved 2011-08-21. 

External links

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