Tenacious D encapsulated the musical legacy of Ronnie James Dio in one perfect quatrain: "Dio has rocked for a long, long time/ Now it's time for him to pass the torch/ He has songs of wildebeests and angels/ He has soared on the wings of a demon."
The heavy metal icon who replaced Ozzy Osbourne as Black Sabbath's singer, and had his own stints fronting Rainbow and the eponymous Dio, died on Sunday, May 16, following a six-month struggle with stomach cancer. He was 67.
A statement posted to Dio's Web site by his wife and manager Wendy Dio read: "Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45a.m. 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."
Born Ronald James Padavona in Portsmouth, NH on July 10, 1942, Dio grew up in New York and began a musical career in 1957 playing bass with the Vegas Kings. In 1961, he renamed himself after mafia member Johnny Dio during his time with the band that ultimately became known as Elf. After Elf spent a tour with Deep Purple in 1975, Dio had his breakthrough as the singer of Rainbow (featuring Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore). He then took a turn as Black Sabbath's lead singer on 1979's million-selling Heaven and Hell and 1981's Mob Rules. (Last year he reunited with the same Black Sabbath lineup under the name Heaven & Hell for one studio album, The Devil You Know.) After he left Black Sabbath in 1982, he formed Dio, who released ten albums, including Holy Diver and its popular title track. He later made a cameo in a South Park episode to sing "Holy Diver," and did the backing vocals for the same song on Pat Boone's infamous metal covers album.
Besides his place in the pantheon of legendary metal singers, Dio is usually credited as a major influence on most of the images we associate with metal culture today: medieval themes, good-vs.-evil melodrama, and the "devil horns" hand gesture. His insistence on melody and refusal to characterize his singing style as "screaming" were unique to the genre.
After being diagnosed with cancer last year, Dio was forced to cancel tour dates to begin treatment.
Dio is survived by his wife, son, father and two grandchildren.
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