Ronnie James Dio is one of heavy metal’s most legendary lead vocalists, and undoubtedly its most well-traveled, having fronted no less than three classic bands, including the one that took his last name. Ronald James Padavona was born to sing on July 10, 1942, and his amazing trajectory took him from late ‘50s doo woo groups, through ‘60s British Invasion and psychedelia, until detouring into the boogie-woogie-driven classic rock of his early ‘70s rock band, Elf. But Dio’s big break arrived in 1975, when he was hired to front Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow for a trio of seminal studio LPs. He then replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath for a pair of equally lauded efforts. Come 1983, Ronnie was finally prepared to strike out on his own with Dio, and the band he recruited, featuring guitarist Vivian Campbell, bassist Jimmy Bain, drummer Vinnie Appice and keyboardist Claude Schnell, soon became a top concert draw, thanks to stellar albums like ‘Holy Diver’ and ‘The Last in Line.’ Dio’s popularity began to wane towards the end of decade, as a succession of lead guitarists (Craig Goldy, Rowan Robertson) passed through the group’s ranks, and Ronnie eventually put the band on ice for a couple of years to rejoin Black Sabbath for the ‘Dehumanizer’ album and tour. But this reunion, too, proved short-lived and typically acrimonious, so by 1993 Dio — the band — had been revived with the help of guitarist Tracy G, former Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson and the ever-dependable Appice. Over the ensuing decade, the group would record and tour in support of five well-received studio albums (weathering the occasional musician change up along the way), until Ronnie was lured back into the Sabbath fold yet again, this time under the Heaven & Hell moniker. After hitting the road to the delight of longtime fans, Heaven & Hell recorded three new songs for 2007’s ‘Black Sabbath: The Dio Years’ compilation, and then topped that with a complete album of new material in 2009’s ‘The Devil You Know.’ Tragically, Ronnie James Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer later that same year, and would eventually pass away on May 16, 2010 — but not before leaving behind one of the most impressive legacies in heavy metal history.
- Selected Discography: ‘Rainbow Rising’ (1976), ‘Heaven and Hell’ (1980), ‘Holy Diver’ (1983), ‘The Last in Line’ (1984)
- Related Artists: Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, Vivian Campbell, Vinnie Appice
- Further Reading: Amazing Ronnie James Dio Vocal Performances