Ronnie James Dio, lead singer of Black Sabbath, Dio, Rainbow dies at 67

Ronnie-James-DioImage Credit: David Atlas/Retna Ltd. Heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio, whose eternal wail fronted bands like Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio for close to four decades, died today at the reported age of 67. Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer in November of 2009; in a statement on his official website, Dio’s wife and manager Wendy Dio wrote, “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.”

Though reports differ about his age, most believe Ronald James Padavona was born July 10, 1942, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1958, he released his first record with Ronnie & The Redcaps, lending backup vocals and playing trumpet. After a name change to Ronnie Dio and the Prophets, the group disbanded in 1967, and Dio and bandmate Nick Pantas started the Electric Elves, going on to open for Deep Purple and shortening their name to Elf. Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore eventually recruited Dio and Pantas for a new group called Rainbow in 1975 (a name inspired by legendary Sunset Strip joint the Rainbow Bar and Grill); that group released three studio albums that introduced Dio’s epic fantastical lyricism to the world, in songs like “The Temple of the King” and “Stargazer.”

By 1979, Dio had left Rainbow, and replaced the malfunctioning Ozzy Osbourne as lead singer of Black Sabbath. The new lineup released Heaven and Hell in 1980, revitalizing the band’s career. It was during his stint in Black Sabbath that Dio also popularized throwing devil horns at the audience, a gesture he reportedly picked up from his Italian grandmother.

After two more albums with Sabbath — 1981’s Mob Rules and 1982’s Live Evil — Dio and drummer Vinny Appice left to form the band Dio. (Dio and Black Sabbath would briefly reunite in 1992 for Dehumanizer.) 1983’s Holy Diver went platinum, and the group would weather several lineup changes over the next two-plus decades, recording nine more studio albums (the last was 2004’s Master of the Moon) and continuing to function in one way or another up to the present day; they were reportedly planning a new album for 2010.

In 2006, Dio and members of Black Sabbath teamed up to form the band Heaven & Hell; that same year, Dio made a brilliant cameo in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, playing a poster of himself come to life to inspire a young Jack Black to pursue his rock n’ roll dreams. Heaven & Hell released a live album of Sabbath classics titled Live from Radio City Music Hall in 2007, and a studio album called The Devil You Know in 2009. They were scheduled to tour Europe this summer, but the dates were cancelled due to Dio’s fading health. Dio was able to make an appearance at Revolver‘s Golden God Awards this April in L.A., where he was honored with the Liquid Metal Best Vocalist Award for The Devil You Know.

Dio’s longtime marriage to manager Wendy Galaxiola was his second; he and first wife Loretta had one adopted son, Dan Padavona.

Finally, the L.A. Times posted the following video, and we agree it’s a fitting memorial:

A link on Dio’s official website leads to a Facebook page where fans are being encouraged to leave condolences. We’ll have an appreciation of Dio’s work here on the Music Mix tomorrow; meanwhile, feel free to leave memories and favorite performances in the comments.

Comments (68 total) Add your comment
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  • Nikki

    Weird….I don’t know this guy, but I JUST saw him yesterday on VH1s 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs. Sad.

    • Berryz

      I was just about to post this. I can’t believe it. I am sad another rock legend gone before his time

      • Rick

        I hardly think 67 is “before his time”.

      • David

        Yeah? Well just wait until you are 67 and expecting another 20 years.

    • crispy


      • Berryz

        Well excuse me for thinking whenever you die from reasons other than, “natural causes”, I think it’s before your time

  • atavanhalen

    he will be missed. his contribution to music dwarfs just about all the pretend “music” EW reviews nowadays.

    • D

      They are a pop culture magazine..theyre gonna review whats current you tool.

  • Jaya Santhan Tony

    RIP brother. May the good Lord grant you the peace that you may or may not have achieved in this lifetime. He is merciful and compassionate beyond words…All He asks is for us to turn to Him and to try our best to completely live out this life on earth…Personally, Ave Maria has helped in the process and made it easier for a once terribly despairing nobody like me…

    • JGM


    • ted

      you’re wasting your life putting your energies into fables and fairytales. Dead is dead and there is no god wake up and open your eyes… R.I.P. RJD

  • christina

    Man, so sorry to hear about the passing of a beloved heavy metal artist. You will be missed Ronnie!

  • mr. rosewater

    Holy Diver you’ve been down too long in the midnight sea…

    • Stephanie T.

      Oh what’s becoming of me…

      • Brian

        RIP RJD

  • missy and tony

    our thoughta and prayers go out to the ronnie james family and friends he will be missed and loved ur ur music will live on and not be forgotten ur fans missy and tont peace… with lots of love

  • martin stickle

    My thoughts and prayers are with the family and Ron himself. Wow! What a loss to rock and roll. His memories will last forever for me and my son, God Bless.

    Love Always

  • Tommy Windows

    Ronnie,, May God Welcome you into Heaven.. Your stage presence was Larger than Life… your contribution to music will live on forever.. You will be missed by Many.. My Prayers Go Out to Your wife, Family and Friends…Thank you for being a positive influence with all you did… Rest in Peace…a fan always and forever.. Tommy Windows

  • Jack Secret

    Wow… I grew up listening to his work with Rainbow, Sabbath, and Dio. Thoughts and prayers to his family…

  • angeljake

    A metal legend…rest in peace…

  • Bill Barnett

    God Bless You Ronnie, You are the man on the silver mountain. When I think of Ronnie, I think of the music the man, integrity a great human being. I shed many a tear today, but I will smile when I think about you and all the great music you made over the years. God speed Ronnie.

  • LOL

    \m/ Dio \m/

  • Keith

    A great singer and fine performer. A true superstar of heavy metal.

    Maybe now Ozzy will sing a few Dio-era songs when onstage with Sabbath. For Dio and all of the fans.

  • Butch

    One of the truly great voices in all of music. I was fortunate to see him in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s. RIP Ronnie James Dio.

  • ks

    He is a legend! Followed his career from the 60’s. What an amazing person. I got to meet him, what a gracious man.
    I went to one of his concerts in the 80’s, I took my 15 month old-she still remembers that. (30 yrs old now) he had everyone come down to the stage and it was as he just sang to us.
    How very sad. Here’s to the Man on the Silver Mountain!
    Love all your music.

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