Legendary rock singer Ronnie James Dio succumbed to stomach cancer at the weekend after a long battle. Rock music has lost one of its premier vocalists, a man whose career lasted over fifty years and whose credits include some of the all time great rock albums.
Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padavona in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on July 10 1942. He was singing professionally at an early age and formed a number of groups in his teens. The young Dio turned down a place at the prestigious Julliard School of Music because he wanted to concentrate on his career in rock.
Dio first found real success with the band Elf and toured in support of Deep Purple in the early 1970s. Ritchie Blackmore was impressed – so much so that when he left to form Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow he recruited Dio and his band, minus the guitarist of course.
Ronnie James Dio sang on three studio albums: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975), the classic Rainbow Rising (1976) and Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (1978), as well as the live double album On Stage (1977). Rainbow were one of rock’s biggest bands at the time and Dio’s reputation as a great vocalist was cemented. But like many other musicians before and after, his differences with Blackmore led him to leave the band.
Dio then joined Black Sabbath, taking on the seemingly impossible task of replacing Ozzy Osbourne. But the first album the new line up produced, Heaven and Hell, was a massive seller, going double platinum in the UK. It regularly secures a high placing in lists of the greatest ever rock albums. Dio also sang on Mob Rules and Live Evil before leaving Sabbath to form his own group.
The band Dio released ten studio albums in all, from the classic Holy Diver in1983 to Master of the Moon, released in 2004. Dio toured extensively all over the world and built a reputation as a tremendously powerful and exciting live act. A variety of musicians came and went but the constant was Ronnie James Dio himself.
In the last years of his life, Dio was reunited with his former band mates from the Black Sabbath days. Touring as Heaven and Hell (for contractual reasons), they played sell out shows worldwide and also released what was to be Dio’s final studio album, the 2009 release The Devil You Know.
Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer later in 2009 and despite initial optimism about his treatment, his condition worsened. He died on 16 May 2010.
Ronnie James Dio was an incredible musical talent. He sang with tremendous power and had an enviable vocal range. His long career included spells with some of the premier bands in the world of rock and he leaves behind a musical legacy that will keep his name amongst the greats.
He was also a fine lyricist, using many ideas from the sword and sorcery world of fantasy in his songs. Good fighting evil was a frequent subject for him, with wizards and magic common. And there were often rainbows in there too.
Goodbye Ronnie. I was privileged to see you singing live on three occasions and the memories will live on inside me. You were a true rock great.