Ronnie James Dio, born Ronald James Padavona, founded and fronted numerous act’s including Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio and Heaven & Hell. He is credited with popularizing the “Metal Horns” hand gesture in metal culture and is known for his brilliant medieval themed lyrics. Dio possessed a powerful, yet elegant and versatile vocal range capable of singing both hard rock and lighter ballads.
According to Rainbow and Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore upon hearing him sing, “His voice sent shivers down my spine!”
Dio’s incredible career spanned over fifty years, selling over 47 million albums. Sadly Ronnie passed at age 67 on May 16, 2010 of metastasized stomach cancer.
The following are 10 facts only the loyalist of Dio fans may know
Giovanni Ignazio Dioguardi
Dio was born Ronald James Padavona on July 10, 1942 and explanations vary for how he later adopted the stage name “Dio.” One story is that Dio was a reference to New York mafia member, Giovanni Ignazio Dioguardi, a.k.a. Johnny Dio, known for his role in creating fake labor union locals to help Jimmy Hoffa become General President of the Teamsters.
Ronnie Dio and the Prophets
Dio’s musical career began in 1957 when several Cortland, New York musicians formed the band, The Vegas Kings with Dio on bass guitar. Later changed to Ronnie and the Rumblers, and then Ronnie and the Red Caps, they released two singles before changing their name once again to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets.
The Electric Elves
In late 1967, Ronnie Dio and the Prophets transformed into a new band called The Electric Elves. The name was shortened to The Elves in 1968 and finally Elf in 1972. Elf disbanded in 1975 after recording three albums and after most of the lineup had been absorbed into Ritchie Blackmore’s new group, Rainbow.
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Dio’s vocals caught the ear of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in the mid-1970s, who was planning on leaving due to creative differences over the band’s new direction. After recording two songs with Dio, Blackmore decided to recruit more of Elf’s musicians and form his own band, initially known as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.
Dio left Rainbow in 1979 and soon joined Black Sabbath, replacing the fired Ozzy Osbourne. Dio met Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi by chance at The Rainbow on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1979. The first song the band recorded with Dio as vocalist was “Children of the Sea,” which would appear on 1980’s Heaven and Hell album.
Dio was known for popularizing the sign of the horns in heavy metal, a.k.a. “metal horns.” He claimed his Italian grandmother used it to ward off the evil eye, which is known in Southern Italy as malocchio. Dio began using the sign soon after joining Black Sabbath in 1979 in an attempt to connect with the fans.
Dio, The Band
Dio and Vinnie Appice formed Dio, the band, in 1982 with Vivian Campbell on guitar and former Rainbow band mate Jimmy Bain on bass. Their debut album, Holy Diver, was released May 25, 1983 and included the hit singles “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver,” the album’s title track. The album was certified Gold in the U.S. in 1984, and Platinum in 1989.
Holy South Park
In 1999, Dio was parodied in the TV show South Park, in the episode Hooked on Monkey Fonics. In the episode, Kyle makes many efforts to make his feelings known to homeschooled Rebecca, whom he convinces to explore the world of public schooling and she agrees to go to the South Park dance with him. At the dance, the band Dio plays its song “Holy Diver”.
Heaven and Hell
In October 2006, it was confirmed that Dio would be joining Black Sabbath members Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and former drummer Vinny Appice to tour under the moniker Heaven & Hell, the title of the first Dio era Black Sabbath album. Original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward was to be involved in this project, but he later withdrew.
Ronald James Padavona, 1942-2010
Dio’s wife Wendy announced on November 25, 2009 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and was being treated at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, but that he would be back on stage when recovered. Dio died at 7:45 a.m. on May 16, 2010 and was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, CA.