Ronnie James Dio, the frontman of heavy metal bands Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio and Heaven and Hell, has passed away from his battle with stomach cancer. He was 67.
Rumors of Dio's death began circulating online Saturday. His wife, Wendy Dio, took to Twitter Saturday night to tell fans, "He is not doing well, but he is not dead." But Sunday morning at 7:45AM, she confirmed that he had passed away.
A message on Dio's official website reads, "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."
His music will indeed live on, evidenced as recently as the Revolver Golden Gods Awards this past April 8, when Dio won the award for Best Vocalist. At the time he was well enough to appear in person and pick up his trophy for what turned out to be one of his last public appearances. His health started to deteriorate quickly, and he was forced to cancel a UK and European tour with Heaven and Hell scheduled for this summer. In a statement at the time, the band said, "At this time Ronnie isn't well enough to tour."
Born Ronald James Padavona on July 10, 1942 in New Hampshire, Dio got his professional start in the late '60s when he helped found the band Elf in 1967. This led to his first major gig when he was asked by guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore to join and front Rainbow. Beginning in 1975, he sang lead on four albums for the band, before shooting to heavy metal icon status by taking on the monumental task of replacing Ozzy Osbourne in metal's biggest band, Black Sabbath.
Though seemingly an impossible feat, Dio proved up for it, with his first album with the group, 1980's 'Heaven and Hell,' becoming one of their best-selling albums and a metal classic thanks to its epic title cut, which was turned into the band's name when it reunited in 2006.
He stayed with Black Sabbath for the successful 'Mob Rules' collection, but in 1982, after years of fronting other bands, he struck out on his own with Dio. The band became a monster success, earning both critical and commercial acclaim for the albums 'Holy Diver,' 'The Last In Line,' and 'Scared Heart.' The band underwent several lineup changes in the late '80s, leading to a somewhat lost decade for the singer in the '90s.
However, things turned a corner at the beginning of the century, with 'Magica' hitting #13 on the Billboard Independent Charts in 2000 and a tribute album called 'Holy Dio: Tribute To Ronnie James Dio' drawing further attention to the singer. He also enjoyed love from Tenacious D, who called on him to pass the torch to them in the song 'Dio' and had the singer appear as himself in 'Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny.'
By 2006, Dio was fully enjoying his icon status as he reunited with Sabbath as Heaven and Hell for a sold-out tour. When Spinner spoke with the singer in 2006, he was shocked by the outpouring of love for the band. "I was as surprised as everyone else, especially, the initial reaction when Radio City Music Hall went on sale. That, to me, was the benchmark that has come. It's quite surprising to me," he said.
He also spoke at the time about the current state of music. "To me the biggest injustice on earth was when they started calling people like New Kids on the Block, N'Sync, Pussycat Dolls, Bananarama a band. That's not a band. A band are people who sit around and play, they know what music is about, they play guitars, basses, drums, saxophones, cellos, and they come together and collectively they commute this music," he said.
"We live in a Bic society, by that I mean that unless you succeed in something you get thrown away just like a Bic pen. It runs out of ink, you throw it away," he said. "Well, that's what industry people do these days, to artists, to real bands. It's a shame, because as I said in the song 'Heaven And Hell,' 'The world is full of kings and queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams. It's heaven and hell.' That's what it's all about really."