Breaking: Heavy-metal icon Ronnie James Dio died today. He was 67 years old.
After rumors started leaking last night of bad news concerning Dio's latest struggle with stomach (
some sources said throat) cancer, his wife and manager Wendy released the following statement today:
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.
Dio was a rock'n'roll survivor, with a really impressive career going back to the late 1950s. By the time he became a superstar by joining Black Sabbath in 1979, the Italian-American singer had over two decades in the music business under his belt.
Here are some highlights and interesting nuggets from Dio's remarkable career:
- Dio was born Ronald James Padavona in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He changed his last name in 1961 inspired by gangster Johnny Dio (thus anticipating the hip-hop trend of renaming yourself after famous Italian-American criminals by many, many years!)
- His career began in 1957 (that's only two years after Elvis' breakthrough and three years before the formation of the Beatles!). Early professional bands he sang with were The Vegas Kings, Ronnie and the Rumblers, and Ronnie and the Redcaps. "An Angel Is Missing" with "What'd I Say" by the Redcaps feature Dio on vocals.
- (Notice proud Italian-American RJD rocking the "Jersey Shore" look back in 1961!!!)
- Ronnie Dio and The Prophets was the name of the band between 1961 and 1967. That year, influenced by psychedelia, Dio and his guitarist formed The Electric Elves, which two years later became Elf.
- Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore drafted Elf to become his backing band and renamed the outfit Rainbow, which released a debut in 1975 and went on to become a pioneering heavy metal group.
- During his tenure in Rainbow, Dio became a much-in-demand vocalist for metal-inflected projects, turning into a dependable, charismatic frontman-for-hire.
- This led to the ultimate metal dream: fronting Black Sabbath. 1979's Heaven and Hell proved a successful, commercial change of direction for the post-Ozzy Sabbath, and Dio became associated with some of the most popular albums by the seminal metal band.
- As Sabbath's singer, Dio imported into metal culture an ancient Sicilian tradition to ward off the evil-eye: the devil's horns hand gesture, which years later the Internet turned into the \m/ emoticon.
- In 1982, Dio left Sabbath to lead a band named after himself. For many years, Dio was a dependable, solid institution in the metal world.
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- In 2006, Dio put his band on hiatus and joined the non-Ozzy members of Sabbath for Heaven and Hell, a metal supergroup that continued touring the world until Dio's illness forced the band to suspend plans a few months ago.
- An interesting aside: Hawthorne indie band Dios (Spanish for God) has been entangled in a protracted conflict with Dio (Italian for God) over their name and the potential confusion this could cause to Dio's fans. Dios became at some point the ungrammatical Dios Malos, but about a year ago reverted (at least for a while) to Dios.
Here's to RJD, a real rock'n'roll toiler: